The Football Pools - Online Betting

Started a new subscription poker site. We have some cool freerolls, cash tourneys, league games, weekly football betting pools etc. Interested in feedback but don't want to violate policies on here. How do I proceed? Cheers!

Want to share with my fellow poker fans looking for somewhere to play online.
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FIRE and Kids – The cost of raising children in Australia

This post has been inspired by this recent podcast featuring three of the biggest names in the Aussie FIRE blogging community, and the follow on discussions in the Aussie Firebug Facebook group about how much it costs to raise kids in Australia. As all three acknowledge they don’t have kids so it’s not something they really have any experience with.
As someone who has two young kids I thought it would be useful to write about it from my perspective. Obviously my situation isn’t the same as everyone else’s, there are plenty of people who would be horrified with how much we’ve spent, and others who would wonder how we manage to spend so little. Everyone’s situation is different, so what works for my family wouldn’t necessarily work or others.
My oldest child has only just started school this year so I can’t really speak from experience beyond the 0-5yo age range, but I’ll talk through some of the typical costs, what we have and haven’t spent money on so far, and what we’re anticipating in the future.
The costs people actually talk about The first two things that almost always come up when people start talking about the cost of babies are prams and carseats. Yes, you can spend a lot of money on these things if you want to, prams in particular. From a quick look at Baby Bunting the most expensive pram there is nearly 3 thousand dollars, and I’m betting that with a few accessories you can easily get over that mark.
No, you do not need to spend that much on a pram. Yes you can probably pick one up on the cheap from Kmart or Target etc for well under a hundred bucks, but it’s probably not going to be as sturdy or hold much of the gear you take with you. Happily a pram is also the sort of thing where you can pretty easily and safely pick one up secondhand or get a hand me down from someone else.
We bought a Babyzen Yoyo, which is basically a small sized pram although it still has enough storage room for us. It folds up so that you can take it on a plane as carry on luggage, is quite light, extremely maneuverable and very sturdy. I’ve taken it running plenty of times, it’s even got a Parkrun PB of 22:06!
This thing is absolutely gold. Unfortunately it’s priced as though it’s made of it as well. There wasn’t an option to get one second hand because it had only just been released so we had to pay full whack. I think we spent over a thousand dollars on it including all the accessories and the lie flat and sit up seats etc.
It was worth every cent. It’s been going for 5 years and 2 kids and is still in great shape, we’ve never had a problem with it at all. My wife tells me it is one of the best things I have ever bought her, although we both use it obviously.
And at the end of the day a one off cost of $1,000 for us as a family is going to have basically zero impact on when we hit FIRE. Plugging the numbers into a compound interest calculator and using 7% annual return over 30 years I miss out on $8,000, which is about a month worth of returns on my target portfolio. I can live with delaying retirement one month for about 5 cumulative years of having a really good pram that works great for us.
Similarly you can spend a fair chunk of money on car seats. This is one of those things that I wouldn’t want to get second hand because you can’t see if they’ve been broken or not and safety is a huge priority for us and presumably everyone else.
Happily car seats don’t tend to cost that much, you can pick one up for a couple hundred bucks or less pretty easily. If you do that it tends to be one for a much shorter age range, say 0-2yrs whereas I think you can get ones which will take your kid from 0-8 but they cost a lot more. In any case per kid you’re probably looking at a thousand bucks total, and this could easily be a lot less.
Again it’s not going to make any appreciable different to us reaching FIRE. So as easy as it is to point at this sort of stuff as being ridiculously expensive and over priced etc, it’s really not going to make much of a difference to most people. Sure you don’t want to spend any more money than you have to, but you also want to make sure you’re getting something that works for you.
The other one off costs There are also a bunch of one off costs for babies and young kids like cots, beds, mattresses, baby carriers etc. From what I’ve been told you want to buy a baby mattress new, but that’s only about a hundred bucks at Target, potentially cheaper elsewhere. We have an Ikea cot which cost about the same, you could easily get one second hand or likely for free just by asking around your friends who will probably be delighted to get it out of their house.
Some people do co-sleeping in which case you don’t need the cot and mattress although you may like to kid yourself that your baby will actually sleep in their own bed, maybe even through the night. It’s nice to pretend sometimes!
As kids get older you’ll need a proper bed for them, again you can probably pick this up second hand pretty cheap and a mattress can be easily had for a couple hundred bucks. So none of these things are really going to have much of an impact so long as you’re a decent saver already.
The big costs you see When you don’t have kids it can be great to live in a studio flat or one bedroom apartment in the inner city close to all the bars and restaurants and all the rest of it. You can stay in your local area and have plenty to keep you entertained, there is probably a supermarket nearby and plenty of public transport so you may not need a car either.
Once you have kids, it’s likely going to be a different story as your priorities change. It may be that you’re happy renting with kids, but lots of people tend to prioritise stability and security when they have kids and that means owning your own home in most cases. I’m not saying everyone will want this, but a lot of people will.
So now that you have kids you almost certainly want a second bedroom and if you’re planning on having more kids maybe a third or fourth etc. Obviously kids can share bedrooms for a while at least but sooner or later they will probably want their own space, as will you.
You’ll also be wanting parks with playgrounds nearby and somewhere you can easily take your kids for a walk or kick a football around, ideally in a good school district which can add a couple hundred thousand dollars to the cost all by itself if you’re in Sydney or Melbourne. And if you want to live somewhere cheaper but send the kids to a good private school, well that can cost anywhere from the low thousands to multiple tens of thousands per year.
Similarly if you didn’t have a car before, you will very likely want one now. I’ve mentioned before that we drive a base model Corolla which works just fine for us so far, but you’re still probably looking at $20k plus if you buy one new, mid teens if you want one used. If you want an SUV or a luxury model car, be prepared to fork out a lot more.
In the same vein if you were previously going on lots of holidays and plan to keep doing so, well you now have at least one more plane ticket to buy, might need a bigger hotel room etc. As I talked about in this post about big ticket items, that all comes at a real cost. We bought land and built a house, so I can say that we spent roughly $100,000 more on that than we would have otherwise.
The ongoing costs There are also a bunch of ongoing costs for kids as well. They need to be fed, they need clothes and shoes, they need medicine, and a bunch of other stuff that costs money. I wrote here about a bunch of things that we do to keep costs down, but the reality is that you still have to fork over a decent chunk of change.
On top of all that contrary to what you might have been told public school is not free, there are a bunch of things that you have to chip in for here as well. We’re not at the stage that we’re forking out a fortune in extra utility bills etc but we certainly use the washing machine a lot more than we would if we didn’t have kids, there are extra lights and tvs etc on so there are extra costs there as well.
There are also a bunch of extra items that you don’t really need to spend, but probably will. For us this includes stuff like swimming lessons, some sports like AusKick (AFL) and Junior Blasters (cricket), occasionally taking them to a theme park or zoo etc. They also get birthday and Christmas presents, and if they get invited to other kids parties they take a store bought gift with them.
The above is about what I think our 5yo costs us at the moment based on our spending, our 2yo is probably about two thirds of that due mostly to her not eating as much and not getting swimming lessons yet, as well as not being in school or doing sports.
I’ve left the holiday line blank because this is hugely variable. Last year we did a trip to the UK and it probably cost us about $3,000 extra between the two of them, next time it will be another couple thousand dollars more because the youngest one will need her own seat rather being on someone’s lap for the flights.
So our spending for our eldest is about two thirds of the costs quoted in this article for a 6yo girl, I would assume that apart from a boy maybe eating a bit more the costs should be fairly similar. The main difference compared to our costs seem to be education and transport.
Also, it was somewhat shocking to me just how expensive swimming lessons are! This is actually at our local council aquatic centre and is the cheapest in town. We do get to use the pool whenever we want, but that only tends to be once or twice a week at most. At least the lessons will hopefully only be for a few years for each child, although after that we may be forking out for something else instead.
The hidden cost of kids The biggest cost is often actually one that doesn’t show up as an expense, the opportunity cost of one parent giving up paid employment entirely for a while or doing part time hours (I’ve used the phrase giving up paid employment here because looking after kids and a house is definitely work!).
If we say that you’re giving up a full time paid job that’s at minimum wage of roughly $20 an hour for 40 hours a week, 48 weeks a year, then that’s $38,400 a year ($33,605 after tax and medicare levy) that the family is giving up for however long this goes on for. If you’d otherwise be earning more than that, then the opportunity cost each year is even higher. On top of that there is the hit to your career and future earnings, because those are definitely going to be impacted as well.
If you’ve got two kids that are separated by two or three years and you as a family want a parent at home until they go to school, well that’s 7 or 8 years of missing out on that money which works out as around $250k based on a full time minimum wage job. I’m pretty hopeful that my wife would be earning more than minimum wage as well so for us it’s even more than that. On the plus side, she gets to spend more time with the kids although that probably feels like a mixed blessing some of the time!
Alternatively if both parents want to keep working then there will likely be childcare costs for the first 4 or 5 years and then before and after school care, as well as missing out on spending time with their kids. Because we haven’t gone down this route I don’t know exactly how much it costs, I do hear plenty of stories about it being $100 a day minimum around where I live and it’s a lot more in capital cities. There are subsidies available for this, but you can pretty easily be spending tens of thousands each year on childcare while they’re young and then once they’re old enough before and after school care.
You may be lucky enough to have grandparents or other family nearby that are happy to help out with this if they live nearby, but that won’t apply to everyone and it’s unlikely to reduce the cost entirely.
The costs that are yet to come At the moment our kids are still young and fairly inexpensive. Between the two of them they tend to eat roughly what a grown adult eats, but from what I’ve been told that will change fairly dramatically as they get older. They’ll need new clothes more frequently, more shoes, potentially play more sports, go on more school excursions, you get the idea.
Education could be another factor. There is a public high school that will be built in the next few years quite close by, and assuming that it’s decent our kids will likely be going there. But if it’s not, then we’ll have to look into private schools which can cost anywhere from a few thousand dollars to tens of thousands.
There will be extra curricular stuff as well. Given my wife and I are both horrible at music it seems unlikely that our kids will be doing extra lessons there, but there are plenty of other areas like sport or extra educational activities that we’d be considering. I know a few parents who have kids who are in elite sports programs (as in regional or state teams) and the costs here can very quickly add up, likewise if extra education is needed or wanted then that’ll be an extra expense.
Government and other assistance I know that depending on your circumstances that there can be government assistance in the form of Family Tax Benefit, childcare subsidy and possibly other programs as well. We don’t get any of these which is fine, we don’t need them and they are presumably meant to be for those who do. If you’re not sure if you should be getting any of these then Centrelink does have this payment finder.
We did get the one day a week Kinder program for 3yos and 3 days a week Kinder program for 4yos, although these both also came with costs of roughly $1,500 a year so it actually cost us money, again this is fine, just a reminder that it isn’t actually free.
Depending on your employer you may also be able to get parental leave for a while, and there is a minimum payment which they have to make so long as you’ve met some requirements. Some employers may also have some continuing support with subsidised childcare and the like. None of this was applicable to our situation but at least some of it will likely be available for others.
So what’s the bottom line? For us the biggest actual one off cost so far has been the bigger house and land that we purchased because we wanted our kids to be able to have plenty of space inside and outside the house. That cost about a hundred thousand dollars more than we would have paid if it were just the two of us. All the other stuff like a pram, car seats, cots/beds, mattresses and all the rest of it have been maybe $5,000 total, which is tiny by comparison.
The opportunity cost has been bigger than this though. When we had our first child when we were in Hong Kong my wife wasn’t working much anyway as there just weren’t that many jobs she could do and my wage easily supported both of us so she was doing some very casual part time work and so not doing that work afterwards didn’t impact us much.
In Australia though she probably would have been earning at least $40,000 a year after tax, so we’ve foregone almost $200,000 on an after tax basis there. Which as I’m sure you can imagine has a pretty big impact on when we will hit FIRE, particularly given we’ve got another few years or her not being in paid employment at all and then likely only working part time after that. So I would guess we’ll be looking at forgone earnings of at least $500,000 by the time all is said and done, and it could quite easily be a lot more.
The actual ongoing costs of the kids so far haven’t been too bad. Between the two of them it’s about $8,000 a year at the moment, although we would anticipate that this will go up a fair bit over time as they start eating more and getting into more extra curricular activities. I get that this is spending that isn’t a necessity, but do I really want my kids to miss out on a bunch of fun stuff so that I can retire a year or two earlier? No, no I do not.
So far the total costs look something like this. You can see that by far the biggest cost has been the earnings that we’ve missed out on because my wife has been at home looking after the kids and doing the household stuff (yes I do some of it because I think it’s important that we share the jobs and to role model stuff for the kids, but the reality is that she is at home a lot more than I am and does more of it). Buying a bigger house and land is next, and the actual costs of feeding and clothing and all the other one off stuff for the kids is a tiny proportion of the actual cost.
All up I’m hopeful that we can keep the ongoing costs to somewhere between $125k and $150k per child from birth through to age 18, although if private school is necessary then that will push up the costs a fair bit. This is less than half of what this article suggests, so although it sounds like a lot of money it’s actually fairly frugal by comparison.
To put it in perspective, it’s basically spending about 7 or 8 grand a year on each child. There are plenty of people out there who spend more than that on food alone, let alone the rest of their living expenses.
As I said earlier travel costs are on top of this, and this can increase the costs quite a lot! Travel is a huge part of the reason we’re pursuing HIFIRE, and we want to be taking the kids on plenty of holidays while they’re growing up.
That’s obviously discretionary spending to a large extent, but we do have close family living overseas who we want to see every couple of years or so, and it’s not fair to expect them to always be the ones travelling. I would guess that we’ll be looking at about $50k per kid in travel costs by the time they turn 18. That’s about 3 grand a year, which doesn’t sound wrong based on the cost of international travel. It may be less than that which would be great, but could also be a fair bit more.
So all up for the two kids we’re looking at about a million dollars from birth to age 18. About half of that is the foregone wages from not working, which is by far the biggest impact. The actual cost of the kids is about another 30%, then travel is 10%, another 10% for the bigger house and land. And then right at the end is less than 1% for the one off stuff like prams and baby seats and cots etc.
How could we spend less? Obviously there are other things we could be doing instead to keep the cost down. The biggest expense is the wages that aren’t being earned because my wife is looking after the kids and the household stuff. We could have chosen to have her work and instead pay for childcare and after school care etc.
If we did though then she wouldn’t get to spend as much time with the kids (which she tells would be welcome some of the time!) and there would be a lot more house work and shopping that would need to be done after work or on weekends for both of us, we’d potentially eat out more often as it’d be more of a hassle cooking meals each night, as well as a bunch of other tradeoffs.
So having her stay at home was our preferred method, and thankfully we’re in the financial position where we can afford to do it that way. Other people make different choices, or they’re unfortunately not in a position to make a choice, they need both partners working or if they’re a single parent have to do it this way.
We could have also gone with a smaller house and less of a backyard. I shared a bedroom with my brother for part of our childhood and we both managed fine. It’s not ideal, but it’s certainly doable, and we could have saved a lot of money by having a smaller house. Again we chose not to because we wanted a bigger house and a decent sized backyard for them to be able to run around in and we can afford it.
We don’t have to travel, although it’d be a bit rough expecting family to travel overseas to see us every year or two and then not reciprocating. Still, that would save a fair amount of money.
It’s pretty hard to say how things will work out with the actual costs of raising the kids. I know roughly what we’ve spent so far, but it’s pretty difficult to know what we’ll be spending in future as they get older. They’re likely to be eating a fair bit more food, s they grow they’ll need new clothes and shoes, they’ll presumably be playing sport and doing other extra curricular stuff which will all cost money.
$150k per kid from 0 to 18 seems like it’s a lot less than what it costs most people, but then we already live a fair bit more cheaply than most others so maybe it’s about right.
At the end of the day we’re happy with the choices that we’ve made so far, but there has certainly been some room to have spent less money than what we have, or to have had more money coming in through both of us being in paid employment. Obviously it has an impact on when we will hit our FIRE number, but I’d rather take a little bit longer to get there than to make different tradeoffs along the way.
Have you got kids or are thinking about having them? How do you think it will impact on your FIRE journey?
Original post with pretty charts, pictures, tables etc is here.
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Wrestling Observer Rewind ★ May 13, 2002

Going through old issues of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter and posting highlights in my own words. For anyone interested, I highly recommend signing up for the actual site at f4wonline and checking out the full archives.
PREVIOUSLY:
1-7-2002 1-14-2002 1-21-2002 1-28-2002
2-4-2002 2-11-2002 2-18-2002 2-25-2002
3-4-2002 3-11-2002 3-18-2002 3-25-2002
4-1-2002 4-8-2002 4-15-2002 4-22-2002
4-29-2002 5-6-2002
  • Okay, look, here's the deal. The obituaries, as sad as they are, contain some of Dave's best work. But good lord, they are looooooooooong. And they never contain anything newsworthy that is relevant to 2002 or anything. But they're always super interesting from a historical perspective. But last week, Dave wrote a brief obit for Lou Thesz (only 5,000 words, ahem) and promised to go into more detail this week. So this week, we open with a 16,000+ word obituary for Lou Thesz and I just can't. Sorry. It's really good though, you should all go read it. But I've got, like, a family and a job and responsibilities and stuff. I can't recap this. It's an incredible piece of work though.
  • The World Wrestling Federation is no more. On May 5th, the company unveiled its new name, World Wrestling Entertainment. Dave recaps the history of the company briefly (was originally called "World Wide Wrestling Federation, or WWWF, until 1979 when it was shortened to WWF, which is has remained for the past 23 years). But as of this week, the company has been rebranded to WWE. The website domain was changed to WWE.com and all references to "WWF" were changed to "WWE." The scratch logo was also changed, with the F being removed, so now it simply looks like "WW" (which, honestly, never really did make much sense to me. Even though the logo has changed, it's still "WW" to this day). Anyway, this all stems from the World Wildlife Fund lawsuit over in the UK, in which the WWE lost every court case and appeal. They were planning to appeal the ruling in the UK's highest court, their final last-ditch effort to save their name, but the reality is, they weren't going to win that case. Vince McMahon and the company blatantly and repeatedly violated the agreement they signed in 1994. It was 1000% obvious they were in the wrong here and they had gotten spanked by every single court before, often losing their appeals by unanimous decisions. So they weren't going to win this final appeal either and they knew it. So they dropped the appeal and threw in the towel and finally agreed to just change the name. The WWE has until May 15th to remove all references to "WWF" from their shows and merchandise. Any merch with "WWF" on it can no longer be sold after that date. All video packages and posters will have to be changed and any "WWF" mention or logos after that time on television or in past footage will have to be censored. Last year, during the court case, the WWE claimed it would cost them more than $50 million to change their name and to deal with all the legal and rebranding headaches that come with it. But this week, they backtacked on that and said it wouldn't be that expensive after all. Who knows if that's true, but the idea of this costing $50 million was enough to make the shareholders shit themselves, so Dave says they claimed it won't cost that much in order to keep the stock from plummeting. Anyway, none of this had to happen. In 1994, Vince McMahon and the Wildlife Fund signed an agreement that the wrestling company would not use the "WWF" name for promoting itself outside of the U.S. (since the Wildlife group is based overseas) and that worked well for a year or two. But then Vince McMahon apparently decided, "Meh, who cares about agreements?" and began repeatedly and blatantly violating it, constantly, for years, at which point the Wildlife group finally got upset enough to file a lawsuit. Anyway, on the first Raw since the name change, Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler repeatedly stumbled over the new initials, accidentally saying "WWF" multiple times. Gonna take time for everyone to get used to calling it the new name.
  • The buyrates for Wrestlemania 18 are in and it appears the event will have to settle for being the #2 biggest money show in wrestling history after it came up short and failed to surpass Wrestlemania 17. Final numbers aren't in yet, but latest estimates put it somewhere around the 800,000 buys range (ended up being about 880,000) which is quite a bit down from WM17. It was also #2 in total revenue from live gate and merch. Internally, it's actually being seen as something of a disappointment because with the power of the Hogan/Rock dream match, they were hopeful this show would top 1 million buys but unless something drastic changes with these buyrate numbers, it looks like the final total will be a good bit short of that.
  • NJPW's latest Tokyo Dome show is in the books. The show drew a sellout crowd of 57,000 fans, there to see the Masahiro Chono vs. Mitsuharu Misawa dream main event (which ended up going to a 30-minute draw). It was the biggest non-Jan. 4 crowd NJPW has drawn to the Dome in 2 years. So that's the good news. The bad news is that the show flopped in the ratings on TV. A big part of that is because the Chono/Misawa match didn't air as part of the show (due to the Asahi-TV/Nippon TV network issues discussed in past issues) so the televised show was built around the Shinya Hashimoto/Naoya Ogawa vs. Scott Norton/Hiroyoshi Tenzan match and man, the fans sure didn't seem to give a fuck about that. In fact, the rating was so bad that there's concern that this will be the end of pro wrestling on prime time TV in Japan for the foreseeable future. But there are justifiable reasons for the rating. The show went head-to-head with the Kirin Cup soccer tournament, which was a huge deal and did more than double the rating the NJPW show did. Unlike the U.S., wrestling and "real" sports in Japan have a major crossover audience, so having real sports competition severely hurt NJPW's show. Also, while Ogawa is a draw as a singles star, putting him in a tag match against Norton and Tenzan isn't exactly setting the world on fire. The show lasted 6 hours, which was way too long and the crowd was burned out before Misawa vs. Chono even started.
  • Other notes from the NJPW show: it opened with an hour long 30th anniversary ceremony. They had a 10-bell salute for Lou Thesz and brought out a bunch of legendary NJPW names from the 70s and 80s. Then they did an angle where Antonio Inoki came out to give a speech, but he was attacked by Tiger Jeet Singh. But then Chyna made the save, attacking Singh, running him out of the ring, and challenging him to a match. Inoki's ex-wife, famous Japanese actress Mitsuko Baisho then made an appearance, getting a huge pop, and she and Inoki did his famous catch phrase to kick off the show. Minoru Suzuki of Pancrase (who started with NJPW as a pro wrestler) was also there. Jushin Ligher and Minoru Tanaka won the IWGP Jr. tag titles and then Liger challenged several NOAH wrestlers who were at ringside (most notably KENTA) and they all jumped in the ring and it ended with a staredown. The Steiner Brothers reunited to face Hiroshi Tanahashi and Kensuke Sasaki, with Chyna as the special referee. Tanahashi was working hurt, but he still worked. They did a spot where Tanahashi ran into Chyna and he went down off the bump instead of her and Dave seems annoyed by this since Tanahashi is a guy they really need to be pushing who can be a huge star for this company. Dave doesn't like him selling bumps for Chyna. Anyway, decent match but the Steiners basically steamrolled them and Tanahashi was pinned by Scott Steiner. Chyna then challenged several All Japan Women at ringside as well as Scott Steiner, Tanahashi, Sasaki, and even IWGP champion Yuji Nagata, saying she wanted a title match. Dave thinks this company has lost its damn mind. Speaking of Nagata, he retained his title in the next match. And then, of course, the main event. Usually during interpromotional matches, the crowd is always super pro-NJPW but this time, they went insane for Misawa and it was clear there were a ton of NOAH fans in the building. Chono did some Inoki moves and Misawa did some Great Baba moves, to kinda have a spiritual "Baba vs. Inoki" tribute in the match I guess. Ended in a draw and by the time it was over, no matter how big the dream match was, the crowd was burned out and weren't as hype for the match as you might expect once the entrances were done.
WATCH: Misawa vs. Chono highlights
  • Goldberg has received a full buy-out of his WCW contract from Time Warner and as of this week, he is now an unsigned free agent. Goldberg did not request the buy-out, the decision was made by the Time Warner side after the most unprofitable quarter in their history. The company was looking to cut expenses, even at a loss, just so the books can look better in future quarters. Goldberg reportedly received almost all of his remaining salary (more than 90% of the nearly $3 million he was still owed) in order to get him off their books. When Goldberg realized he's going to be a free agent a year earlier than expected, talks with WWE started up. But as usual, they went nowhere. WWE (I feel like I'm having to get used to typing that all over again. Really does feel like 2002 again) has interest in him, especially given the way ratings continue to plummet lately. But Goldberg has always wanted more than WWE is willing to pay. Plus, they're feeling burned right now after signing Hall and Nash to big money, long-term contracts for part-time work, only to have Nash get injured and Hall likely to get himself fired at any moment (that moment is coming sooner than you think), and neither of them really getting over in any meaningful way. Even Hogan, who is also making big money for a reduced schedule, was hot for a minute and boosted ratings and buyrates. But after only a few months, that train already seems to be out of steam and TV ratings are back to floundering with Hogan as champion leading the shows. So WWE is kinda gun-shy on opening the checkbook and paying out the ass for these big stars, futilely hoping that one of them is the quick-fix that can stop the bleeding.
  • There's also the question of how Goldberg would fit within the WWE locker room. He hasn't been shy about his dislike for Triple H, dating back to WCW when Triple H trashed Goldberg in a radio interview and saying that even if Goldberg was available, they wouldn't want him (which, at the time, when WCW was still alive and Goldberg was the biggest star in the company, is just about the dumbest thing he could have said. In 1998, WWF would have gladly traded 10 Triple H's for Goldberg). Anyway, Goldberg took the comment personally and even confronted Triple H face-to-face at the Toy Fair convention in New York a couple of years ago, in a bit of an ugly scene where Goldberg was yelling at him and Triple H and Stephanie kept their heads down and said nothing. Goldberg also has a lot of dislike for Scott Hall, which is another of Triple H's good friends, so ya know. The latest on Goldberg is that he's considering working some in Japan but he's just fielding offers right now. Word is he's interested in working with PRIDE as well as NJPW. Of course, if he's looking to maximize his money potential, WWE is still the place to go if you want to make big bucks. If promoted right, matches against Rock, Austin, Triple H, and others could do huge buyrates. And if they keep Goldberg and Austin apart for a year and build to a match with them at Wrestlemania, well, needless to say, that show would set records. Dave talks about how Goldberg got nuclear hot in 1998 and even in 1999, he was the biggest drawing wrestler in the business. But by 2000, the company was dying, Goldberg was injured, and "Jesus Chris with an Etch-a-Sketch" couldn't have drawn in WCW. Dave again does the math and talks about how WWE should have brought Goldberg in for the Invasion angle. Yes, it would have cost them a lot of money and upset the salary structure, but he would have more than made up for it with the kind of buyrates he could have drawn with those dream matches and the Invasion angle might have had a chance. But alas.
  • And of course, who's to say how WWE would use Goldberg? They already have Brock Lesnar and they're currently giving him the unstoppable monster push. Lesnar is bigger, younger, and a more legitimate athlete (for whatever that's worth). And WWE probably isn't going to give Goldberg an endless string of jobbers to beat. In WWE, he's going to be expected to work longer matches, sell for people, etc. They won't book him the way WCW did so who knows how he'd get over in WWE? If they wanted to build to an Austin/Goldberg match, it would make sense that Goldberg first has to plow through guys like Triple H, Undertaker, etc. And politically, that just ain't gonna happen. Dave doubts NJPW can afford him for anything more than one or two big shows. As for PRIDE, he could probably make a lot of money there, but the problem is.....PRIDE is a shoot. They haven't had "worked" matches in a couple of years and doing so now would kill their credibility. Which means Goldberg would have to go into a legit shoot and one embarrassing loss there would severely hurt his future earning potential. In the end, Dave thinks it's inevitable that Goldberg will end up in WWE, but probably not any time soon. But he's certain it will eventually happen. There's too much money on the line for both sides and WWE's ratings woes are making them desperate, so it'll happen some day (yup, less than a year from this).
  • And the moment is here! For those of you who had "under 3 months" in the "How long will Scott Hall last?" pool, come collect your prize. Scott Hall was released by the WWE this week due to misbehavior on the European tour. Firstly, he went on a drunken binge during the entire tour and was even worse on the plane ride home (much more on that in a bit). Dave says this was inevitable. WCW fired him. Even ECW stopped using him when he got arrested at one point. And even though he was seemingly behaving during his Japan tours, even NJPW cut ties with him shortly before he went back to WWE because they were fed up with some of his antics. And now WWE has fired him. Dave talks about how Hall made a drunken spectacle of himself in the locker room on his very first day back in WWE, before the NWO even debuted on TV, then he showed up in Toronto for Wrestlemania in no condition to perform (later came out that he was hungover from the night before), which caused Austin to insist on ending their feud at WM (which was the plan, but Dave says Austin has continued working with Hall afterwards simply because they don't really seem to have any other credible opponents for him). Hall's match with Bradshaw at Backlash was an embarrassment and the night before that show, agents had to help him back to his hotel. Just endless incidents like this. In Europe, Hall was such a blatant drunken mess that even the other wrestlers were calling for him to be fired. Hall was 45 minutes late for the bus they all took to London and then passed out in the locker room during the show. On the plane ride back, he was starting fights with people and eventually passed out and it got to the point that people were worried about his health. When they got back to the U.S. for Raw, they literally had to wake him up from a drunken stupor backstage to send him to the ring to do his segment (and yes, he wrestled). After the show, they fired him. No one came to his defense, and even Hall's closest friends are now admitting that he simply can't handle the pressures of being on the road and being released is the best thing for him right now. Dave talks about how a lot of wrestlers have been fired in the last couple of years for drug and alcohol issues and that's all well and good, but the big problem is why hire them in the first place? Scott Hall's issues were not a secret. It wasn't like he cleaned himself up before he came to WWE. He was getting in trouble and collecting arrests like Pokemon all the way up until the day they brought him back. Anyway, Hall had a 2-year deal, believed to be worth $600,000-per-year downside for only 10 dates per month. So a really sweet deal, but it's gone now.
  • Hey, speaking of that European tour, turns out there was a bit of trouble on the flight back to the U.S. Perhaps you've heard of it. Most of the trouble wasn't even due to Scott Hall. Turns out Vince McMahon didn't make the trip and lots of people decided that was a good reason to cut loose and have fun. Plus, since everyone has seen Hall get away with being drunk 24/7 for the last few months, they figured nobody would get in trouble. So....folks got DRUNK. Among the various incidents on this flight: Goldust got on the speaker system and began drunkenly serenading his ex-wife Terri with love songs. Terri was extremely uncomfortable and begged him to stop and then Jim Ross had to go sit him down. Ric Flair also "started to get wild" but Jim Ross calmed him down as well (Dave doesn't seem to know just yet exactly what Flair "getting wild" entailed, but if you don't know, it involved getting totally naked except for his robe and started helicoptering his dick at flight attendants. And it gets worse if you feel like researching it. The flight attendants later filed a lawsuit against Flair and accused him of sexual assault). Curt Hennig was spraying people with shaving cream and he kept trying to get Brock Lesnar to fight him. Lesnar, being a newcomer, didn't know how to handle it and didn't want to get in trouble, but he ain't gonna let Hennig talk shit to him either. So anyway, Lesnar got up and basically annihilated Hennig, repeatedly taking him to the ground and embarrassing him because, well, of course he did. It's Brock Lesnar. At one point, Lesnar slammed Hennig up against the side of the plane, right into the emergency exit door, which freaked everybody out for obvious reasons. Michael Hayes got into a scuffle with Bradshaw and then tried to pick a fight with Hall (although everyone on the plane said Hall had it coming). Anyway, Hayes was apparently obnoxious as hell and annoyed everyone. But then he made the mistake of falling asleep and someone (believed to be X-Pac) cut his hair off. When Hayes woke up, he was furious and tried to fight several people. The next day at the Raw tapings, his entire mullet was in a plastic bag, pinned to the wall of the locker room for everyone to see. Gerald Brisco, Arn Anderson, and Hayes all caught a ton of heat from Vince afterward since they were the people who were supposed to be in charge. Anderson and Hayes especially, since their jobs are to keep the boys under control, but they were apparently having just as much fun as everyone else. Everyone's waiting to see how Vince is going to handle this situation. As noted, Hall was already fired and Hayes got an earful from Vince, Stephanie, and JR at Raw the next day, but there will likely be more fallout. Undertaker was also said to be furious over how out of hand everything got (I'm sure we haven't heard the last of this).
  • Anyway, while they were in Europe, WWE presented its latest UK PPV, Insurexxtion. As usual with the UK PPVs, this was little more than a glorified house show. They announced the show as sold out, but there were empty seats everywhere. RVD vs. Eddie Guerrero for the IC title was the show-stealer according to every report Dave heard, and was said to be far better than their Backlash match. Brock Lesnar teamed with Shawn Stasiak (lol wut) and lost to the Hardyz. Brock beat up everybody after the match. Triple H beat Undertaker in the main event and Dave doesn't know why since Undertaker is the one challenging Hogan for the title at the next PPV. The top rope broke during the match when they did an Irish whip into the corner and when the rope snapped, a metal piece broke off from the corner and flew into the crowd and barely missed hitting a small child in the face.
  • Smackdown on 5/2 drew the all-time lowest rating in the history of the show. Dave says that's the scariest thing to happen to WWF in the past 5 years. It was also the 3rd lowest rating for any Smackdown or Raw dating back to 1998. The rating was a full 18% drop from the week before, which was already scary. The rating was even lower than previous holiday episodes. So what was the problem? Well, it was headlined by Hogan defending the WWF title against Chris Jericho (as it turns out, the final time the "WWF" title was ever defended). Dave says the title has been meaningless for years now and Hogan's steam is running out. And Jericho hasn't recovered from spending the first part of the year being emasculated and playing second fiddle to Stephanie McMahon in the Wrestlemania feud. Add all that together and you've got a recipe for a shit ratings night. Among other things. Dave isn't blaming this all on Hogan and Jericho by any means, there's a lot of problems with the company as of late, from bad storylines to failing to make new stars, and it's all starting to come home to roost.
  • Keiji Muto wrestled a match in AJPW under his alternate gimmick of Kokushi Muso. Turns out "Great Muta" isn't his only other persona. The Kokushi Muso gimmick is basically like Hakushi in WWF, where he's covered his entire body in Japanese writing. He originally debuted the gimmick in Michinoku Pro last year, when teaming with....Hakushi (Jinsei Shinzaki, who occasionally brought back the old Hakushi gimmick in Japan). Anyway, same thing here. He teamed with Hakushi for this match, while using that gimmick (Muto would use that gimmick a handful of times throughout the years, always when teaming with Hakushi. It's like that was only his gimmick for that team. The last time he used it was in 2009, also in a tag match with Hakushi).
  • Former NOAH Jr. champion Naomichi Marufuji underwent knee surgery this week and should be out around 6 months (ends up being 9 months).
  • NJPW is doing an angle (according to Dave) similar to the Vince/Flair angle last year where Antonio Inoki and Masahiro Chono are battling over control of the company. Although it's more realistic. Inoki is in the press talking about how many of NJPW's shows aren't doing well and is pushing for them to use Naoya Ogawa more, while Chono doesn't want to. Inoki is also saying Chono needs to retire from wrestling and focus his energies on managing the day-to-day business of the promotion full-time. Dave says this is an angle, but it doesn't sound like much of one to me, and I think later years have kinda proven there was a lot of blurring between fiction and reality here, because there was a ton of behind the scenes turmoil in NJPW during this period.
  • Will Smith appeared alongside Antonio Inoki at the Japanese movie premiere for the film "Ali" based on Muhammad Ali's life. Crowd went absolutely insane for Inoki (I've tried like hell and can't even find a picture of them together. But then again, I can't find a single pic from the premiere at all).
  • When reviewing the recent Dos Caras Jr. shoot fight in Japan, Dave talks about the guy's potential as a wrestler. He has a strong amateur background, legit shoot skills, and a famous name. Dave thinks, if he's even halfway a decent worker, he can almost be a guaranteed star in Mexico (based on his name alone) and probably Japan too, if he decides to pursue that career (indeed he did, and indeed, he was fairly decent at it. Of course, he later became Alberto Del Rio, accused rapist and pretty much confirmed all-around piece of shit).
  • Former long-time WCW referee Randy Anderson passed away this week after a long battle with testicular cancer. Back when WCW was still around and he first got diagnosed, they did an angle out of it where Eric Bischoff fired him and then laughed at his wife and kids when they begged him to give Anderson his back. Of course, he was later re-hired when Flair became on-screen commissioner and continued to referee until 1999 when the cancer forced him to retire.
  • Random news and notes: Bobby Heenan is said to be in good spirits and is especially excited because WWE recently contacted him about doing a WWE Magazine feature on him. Verne Gagne's wife Mary passed away from cancer this week. Goldberg will be appearing on this week's Wrestling Observer Live show to be interviewed. Mil Mascaras is releasing an autobiography (in Spanish of course) and man, I'd love to find an English translation of that because I bet it'd be interesting. Chyna appeared on "Sabrina The Teenage Witch" this past week.
WATCH: Chyna on Sabrina The Teenage Witch
  • Bruno Sammartino turned down an invitation to attend the Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame ceremony in New York (yes, that HOF existed and still does, in a different city now). Bruno did an interview with the local paper and said "Wrestling is how I made my living and supported my family, but it's over. I don't want anything to do with it anymore." Bruno managed to turn the discussion to the WWE, despite them not having any affiliation with this HOF and grumbled about how Vince McMahon blocked him from being inducted into the Madison Square Garden Hall of Fame. However, the new MSG owners have apparently promised Bruno he'll be inducted this year, since he sold the place out 200 times (Dave jumps in here to correct it and says the real number of sellouts is closer to 45. Bruno only main evented the Garden 127 times and by no means were they all sell-outs. But it's one of those myths that has been perpetuated for so long that Dave begrudgingly recognizes that people are always going to believe the 200 number is true, but it's not even close. He compares it to the claim that Andre The Giant was 7'4, which also wasn't true but people repeated the lie so often that it became accepted as fact).
  • Afa Anoa'i Jr., the son of the legendary Wild Samoan, is a star football player at his high school and is being recruited for Penn State. He also sometimes wrestles on his father's indie shows (that would be Manu, who was very briefly part of Legacy with Orton, Dibiase Jr., and Cody).
  • Former WCW announcer Scott Hudson will be doing commentary for Jerry Jarrett's new promotion, and Bob Ryder is said to be in a major front office position.
  • Jarrett has put out a press release saying that his new promotion has had talks with Randy Savage and Ultimate Warrior. Word is Warrior wanted a 15% ownership stake in the new company, which pretty much ended those talks right there. They're also apparently interested in Scott Hall now too, with the idea that since they're only doing 1 show per week, he won't be a screw-up here. Dave is skeptical. Anyway, currently Road Dogg and Brian Christopher expected to be some of the company's top stars and Dave's not optimistic.
  • XWF wrestlers were told last week that a television deal should hopefully be finalized this week. But Dave has been told no chance it's happening that soon. The rumors are that the deal is either with the FX or Fox Kids networks. Ted Turner had inquired about buying this promotion a few months ago, but when he learned how much it would cost to get them off the ground and make them competitive, he lost interest (TV deal never materializes, company is already dead, etc. etc.).
  • The Scorpion King slipped to 2nd place this week, falling to the new Spider Man movie which did a record breaking $114 million opening weekend. Randy Savage has a small role in that movie.
  • Speaking of, The Rock worked his first match in about a month at a Fort Lauderdale house show, teaming with Hogan to beat Jericho and Angle. After the match, Hogan tried to get Rock to pose with him, but Rock wouldn't do it. Rock thanked the fans for the success of Scorpion King and said it would likely be his last match for awhile. There was a ton of local media there, but Rock didn't talk to any of them. Basically, the house show was in his neck of the woods and he simply decided to show up and work it just so he could see his friends and hang out with the locker room, he had no interest in doing interviews. He was just there because he wanted to be. Backstage, Rock was telling people that Hollywood higher-ups have told him he has to leave the wrestling business if he wants to be taken seriously as an actor. Those in the company feel it's a certainty that Rock really is leaving and he's likely going to break out of wrestling into Hollywood and actually become a rare success story (yeah, you could say that).
  • Look how long this is already. Imagine if I had covered that Lou Thesz obituary in full. JUST IMAGINE!
  • Notes from Raw: Dave compares it to an episode of Thunder, with the crowd half-dead for everything. Also, the roster was exhausted after just returning from the Europe trip (and the plane ride shenanigans) and that was apparent too. Brock Lesnar won his match via pinfall instead of the usual ref stoppage and Dave says that word is Triple H got in Vince's ear and convinced him to end the ref stoppage gimmick for Brock. Sure, why not? Hogan was supposed to ride off on Undertaker's bike at one point, but then the motorcycle wouldn't start. It was one of those awkward live-TV moments where time stood still and nobody knew what to do. Flair finally turned heel on Austin, to a shocking lack of heat from the crowd. Nash returned, etc. Dave recaps the rest of this show and it sounds like a lot of bad WCW stuff, coincidentally enough with a lot of the same people.
WATCH: Hogan can't start the motorcycle
  • The man who played the effeminate gay guy applying to be Vince McMahon's secretary on Smackdown a few weeks ago was new creative team member David Lagana. He recently joined the company and has written for several other TV shows, including "Friends" and has a strong knowledge of the industry (Dave says if you've been reading the Observer closely for the last few years, you're probably familiar with him, he's written in to Dave a lot over the years).
  • Dave goes on a brief rant about how to use older stars. In the past, everyone, even Vince McMahon, talked about how you should use guys like Hogan and Flair in small doses and how WCW's reliance on older stars like that is what made them less special. Dave talks about back in the day in Memphis, Jackie Fargo would come back once or twice a year and he was always the biggest star in the company when he did. Because he was used sparingly. But WWE has pretty much built its company around Hogan and Flair (and to a lesser extent, Vince and Undertaker) over the last few months and they've been totally overexposed because of it. Just 6 weeks ago, Hulk Hogan was getting some of the largest crowd reactions in the history of the business. Now, he and Undertaker are practically hearing crickets during their on-screen interactions.
  • Lita underwent neck surgery this week and isn't allowed to do anything physical for 9 months. Scotty 2 Hotty also had neck surgery and is expected to be out for about a year. Both are expected to make full recoveries though.
  • Jesse Ventura admitted this week that he received WWF stock options as partial payment for some work he did with them. Dave doesn't know if it's related to the Summerslam appearance a few years ago or the XFL announcing gig. Ventura says he has 10 years to exercise those stock options but wouldn't give any further details.
  • Scott Steiner told WWA he will work their next UK tour but after that, he's going to WWE. Dave is skeptical. Reports are that Steiner was in horrible pain after every match he worked on the last WWA tour and there's significant doubt that his body will hold up to a WWE schedule.
  • The new Steve Austin "What!" DVD has a lot of WCW footage, including the full Austin vs. Steamboat match from WCW Bash at the Beach 94. Dave doesn't say so, but I believe this is the first time WWE used any of the WCW library for commercial release after they purchased it the year before.
  • Someone writes in and asks Dave to stop spending so much time writing about steroid use in wrestling and instead says he should write a story about racism in the business. This person writes about the allegations from years back of Dusty Rhodes using the N-work with impunity, or the time DX parodied the Nation by wearing blackface. The WCW discrimination lawsuit, the embarrassing angles they've done with Mark Henry such as Sexual Chocolate, etc. This guy is asking why is it white wrestlers outnumber black wrestlers by 35-to-1 ratio in the U.S. (70-to-1 in Mexico and 80-to-1 in Japan). He wants to know why Dave isn't writing about that stuff. Dave responds and agrees that the blackface DX promo was racist, and it was racist when Buff Bagwell did it in WCW and when Roddy Piper did it in the 80s. Dave says wrestling, especially from the 70s through the 90s, had a horrible history of exploiting stereotypes and/or saying and doing racist things. You can argue it's gotten better, but no doubt the problem still exists. Dave lists some examples but he also pushes back on some others. For example, he's heard people complain that Booker T isn't being used properly due to his race and Dave disagrees. It's true that Booker T probably deserves a bigger push, but you can make the same case for guys like RVD and Jericho and Raven or DDP (when he first debuted, at least) and that didn't happen either, so Dave doesn't necessarily think Booker's lack of top-star push can be blamed on his race (we're less than a year away from Triple H definitively proving otherwise).
  • There's also 2 letters about the Rock/Hogan match at Wrestlemania and they couldn't be more different. One guy writes in and he can't understand why people are praising that match because if you put aside the hot crowd, it was awful, everyone's moves looked bad, it was embarrassing, etc. and says Hogan should have retired afterward. Then someone else writes in and says he was there live and, taken as a whole, Rock vs. Hogan was the greatest match he's ever seen. Basically the same "love it or hate it" opinion people have about that match to this day. Also, someone else writes in about the recent Low-Ki vs. American Dragon match from an ROH show and puts it up there among some of the greatest matches of all time (listing off several classic WWF matches like Shawn/Razor and Owen/Bret at WM10 for example). So there ya go.
NEXT WEDNESDAY: more fallout from the Plane Ride from Hell, more on the beginning of Jarrett's new NWA-TNA promotion, more on the NJPW Tokyo Dome show, and more...
submitted by daprice82 to SquaredCircle [link] [comments]

I work for Styx Taxis, I drive souls to the afterlife...I just picked up a familiar face.

Do something for me, will ya? I want you to think back to when you were a kid, think back to those innocent days when the world was your oyster and you could be anything you wanted. Tell me what was that anything? What was your dream job as a child? Most people will say a football player, an actor, a world-famous musician, maybe even an astronaut. Well, not me. I wanted to be a cab driver. I was obsessed with being a taxi driver, I had toy taxis and a taxi costume including a cabbie hat, I even had a bed that was shaped like a taxi instead of a racecar! I drove my parents crazy with my obsession but I was a kid from Brooklyn growing up in the big city surrounded by yellow cabs, I’m not sure why I loved them so much but ever since my Pops brought my brother Vince and me in a cab to a Net’s game when we were younger I knew what I wanted to do with my life.
“Taxies are disgusting, Freddie why the hell do you like them? They smell like liquor and look like Grandma’s wrinkly butt” Vince would say to me, he had a way with words but whatever way that was it wasn’t the right one. Nobody could understand my love of taxis but that was okay they didn’t need to, I loved the thought of driving through the city and meeting new people every single day, sure many taxis were filthy but mine wouldn’t be...or so I thought when I was 8. Vince, however, had much more ambitious goals.
“Me? I’m going to play for the Jets. I’ll be the best Tight End the NFL will ever see”
Vince was pretty great at football, he even went on to play some college ball but he always reached for the stars with his dreams and that could make failure hurt so much more. I was more realistic in my goals from a young age, I couldn’t kick snow off a rope and I could barely throw a ball from one side of the road to the other, being a taxi driver was a dream but unlike most of all of your dreams when you were all kids, mine was doable.
I received my yellow cab certification when I turned 21 making me a lot younger than my co-workers who were usually in their 40s. I worked for over 8 years as a taxi driver and I never once regretted it bar two robberies at gunpoint and a handful of casually racist remarks from tourists or some freshmen on Wall Street who wanted to know if they can say the n-word since their friend in college said he was cool with it. Eventually, though my time as a cab driver came to end...well my driving of the living came to an end anyway. Now I drive souls to the afterlife for the Styx Taxis cab company. Every day I bring multiple souls to the Great Divide where judgement is made against them to decide if they go to Paradise or Damnation. I hear many stories on the clock, people begging to be given another chance or sobbing for forgiveness but I’m just the driver, the car makes the judgement and the car is never wrong.
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My day starts like anybody else’s, my alarm goes off at around 6.30 am, I shower, brush my teeth, get my clothes on - usually a pair of black skinny jeans, a loose tee, some Air Force Ones and my Grampa’s brown suede jacket he gave to me in his will - and I will usually grab something to eat from a drive-thru Starbucks once I’m out on the road. My alarm didn’t go off today but thankfully my body jolted me awake before 7, this meant no breakfast and I was behind on at least one passenger though on a good day I could get through three before 8.30, this would hurt my place on the standings but if I worked effectively I could make up the lost points.
My first passenger was a Charles Monroe, a 45-year-old stockbroker who died from a coke overdose after partying too much during a promotion party. At least he was a Jets fan. It took me around fifteen minutes to reach him, he was sitting on a bench in his clothes from the night before, if the coke didn’t kill him that hangover would have. I pulled up and the backdoor opened for him. The crossing over process had begun.
“Charles Monroe?” I asked knowing damn well I had the right guy.
“Yeah...who’s asking. What the hell is going on, why am I stuck here?” he replied while slurring some words.
“You’re dead buddy, bit too fond of the charlie there...Charlie. I’m here to pick you up and bring you to your eternal resting place. Get in” I said. The emotions of people when they are told they have died can range from anger to sadness to in some cases jubilation though that is usually due to a sense of smugness that they were right about an afterlife existing.
“Fuck off” he shouted at me while spitting at my car, his dirty grey phlegm landing on my passenger side window cleaning some dust off of it, it was safe to say Charlie’s fell into the former category, he was pretty angry.
“I’m not fucking dead, I’m fucking invincible”
You often got these types of people, usually rich white guys. They genuinely buy the bullshit they were sold about dying peacefully in their bed surrounded by loved ones even though they knew full well that no one loved them.
“Nah bro, you are absolutely dead, here look I’ll show you.” As I replied I began to pull some pictures up on my iPad and cast them to the screen attached to my passenger side mirror, as I scrolled through the array of pictures the reality of the situation began to dawn on Mr.Monroe.
“See there’s you face down in a pool of your own vomit, there’s you being zipped up in a bodybag, there is your mother Margaret identifying your body at the morgue...ignore that last picture that’s my Greyhound ‘Rufus’ not sure how that got in there”
The tough bravado wasted away as Charles fell to the floor and burst into tears, he continued to do that for another few minutes - taking more time off my schedule - before I decided it was time to get a move on.
“Look, dude, I know this is a shock for you and all but there is no changing it. It’s science, what's dead is dead. Your energy is being used for something else now so hop in and we will bring you to wherever you are meant to spend eternity. Paradise or Damnation.”
He lifted his head to look me in the eyes, his tears caused his deep blue eyes to shine immensely bright in the blistering sunlight. He wiped his tears from his face and took four deep breaths to compose himself.
“I’m not going with you, not a chance. I will fight this, I have gotten out of worse situations” he said, his air of invincibility only momentarily shattered.
“I can promise you that you haven’t. You better come with me because the second that door shuts it’s over you don’t get second chances.” I responded mostly hoping for him to get in so I could add some points to my tally but also because I knew the punishment of disobedience.
“LISTEN BUDDY CLEAN YOUR FUCKING EARS OUT, I’M NOT GOING. END OF STORY,” he screamed back at me.
“Close your damn door, see if I care” were the famous last words of the jackass.
“Okay, suit yourself” I replied while exhaling loudly, I pressed the large red x button beside the radio and the door slammed shut, once that happened his fate was sealed a lightning bolt shot down from the sky and he slowly dissipated right in front of my eyes, he screamed and begged for help and even tried to bargain with me to get the door open but the door can’t open once it has been closed. There are no second chances.
Charles Monroe paid the price of disobedience, his soul was zapped and sent to NULL, a plane of existence outside of all other realms, NULL is an empty grey room with no directions. No up, down, left or right. To meet another soul in NULL is about as unlikely as anything, odds don’t go that high. This is where Mr.Monroe would spend the rest of his eternal life. NULL was quite literally a fate worse than hell.
They say all things are binary, they are either a 0 or a 1. They are or they aren’t.
NULL was -1.
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That little escapade took even more precious time away from me, when a new passenger request popped up on my screen I accepted in an instant and sped to the pickup point. My second passenger of the day was a Ms.Melina Cortez, a 28-year-old mother of one who had died in a drink-driving incident, the child’s father was not involved if you wanted some good news. When I arrived Melina was sitting on a bench, her knees pointing in and her arms wrapped tightly around herself, she looked scared but also like she knew what had happened to her.
“Hey there, Melina. How are you doing? I’m Freddie, I'm your driver today, I’ll be bringing you to the afterlife” I calmly said to her as the backside door opened once more. She did not respond to me, no questions about who I was or what was happening. Nothing, she just stood up with her head down and took her seat in the back of my cab. I decided to take my foot slightly off the pedal for a few moments to slow our trip and allow her time to cope but she wouldn’t have much, she would need to speak or the judgement would be made for her. After five minutes of cruising, I broke the silence.
“You know I’ve driven some celebs, I’m legally not allowed say who but fun fact those people who post memes about them all in Paradise are going to be sorely disappointed when they die”
She lifted her head and smirked, the best I could ask for given the situation and I had an opening so I continued on.
“Listen, Melina, I know it is tough for you but you need to tell your story, your life, your successes and your failures and any transgressions you may have cause it’s your best chance of getting into Paradise”
“I know it’s tough but you have t-” “I’m not getting into Paradise,” she said matter of factly cutting me off in the process.
“I’ve done horrible things, any God with even a little sense of respect would know not to let me in”
“What have you done, Melina?” I asked bewildered by the emotionless tone in her statements.
“Oh you know, you got your little screen there with my name on it. I can see it from back here. Just look through my file.” she said while placing her head onto the window and staring out into the abyss.
“Actually I don’t know. This file is filled with the bare minimum I need to convince someone I’m not some fraudster. It has your name, the names of family and loved ones, how you died, some miscellaneous pictures and a list of hobbies, sometimes I don’t get anything bar a location. I know how you died but I know little of the circumstances bar the fact it was a drink-driving accident with one car involved so I would guess you were driving, that is bad Melina but no one else was hurt, I’ve seen people survive Damnation for doing a lot worse.” I responded to her factually, another rule of the job. I couldn’t lie to the passengers.
“I wasn’t even drunk” she responded before a whistle went off, this whistle was the car notifying me and our passenger that they were telling a lie. The whistle was a sort of smug ‘hih hoo’ sound similar to a phone notification, the smugness of the sound often got under the skin of passengers causing them to blurt out truths or half-truths.
“The car says you are lying, Melina. This car has been imbued with the power of an Old One it can tell what is true and what is false.” I ensured her, hoping it would stop any further lying but knowing from past experiences it would not.
“Okay, I had a bottle of wine but I’ve driven drunk before it wasn’t the drink that caused the crash. It was the percs...and my rage. I just couldn’t think straight then I saw the tree and knew what had to be done” she replied, this time to no whistle. She killed herself, why?
“I’m sure the cops have already rang the bastard and told him about everything that happened, my only regret is not getting to see his face when they tell him. The son of a bitch”
“Who are you talking about, Melina? What did you do?” I responded
“Jorge, my boyfriend, Marlon’s father. That son of a bitch, he caused it all, when he eventually eats lead from one of those girls’ fathers he for sure as hell won’t be going to Paradise, no need to even question him” she responded.
“What did you do to Jorge, Melina? Is he hurt, did you hurt him?” I replied, each response from the woman further bewildering me.
“Oh he’s hurting that’s for sure,” she responded before bursting into tears.
“The bastard was fucking underage girls!”
“I found texts and pictures, oh God so many sick fucking pictures, the stuff he would say to these...these kids, these 14 and 15-year-old girls it would make you sick, they did make me sick. I was sent into a haze, I didn’t know how to react so I just drank and drank glasses of white wine, washing down the percocets with it.” she had stopped crying and was now on her knees leaning forward and pushing her face and hands up on the partition window separating us.
“I knew what I had to do, I had to protect myself but most of all I had to protect my son, I couldn’t let that fucking pervert go anywhere near him ever again so I did what needed doing”
I had now taken my eyes off the road and turned to look Melina in the eye, her crazed stare transfixed on me, my heart was in my throat as I struggled to ask her the question I felt I already had the answer to.
“What needed doing, Melina?”
She smiled at me with a wide grin from ear to ear, her blue lips stuck together not allowing her teeth to bare themselves to me.
“I took a pillow to my son in his sleep. It didn’t take long and he didn’t fight, he knew deep down that this was for his own good.”
I gripped the steering wheel tightly in both hands attempting to hide my anger, signs of emotion behind the wheel of a Styx Cab could see me terminated. I waited for the whistle of the car, I prayed the whistle would come...but it didn’t. I didn’t respond, I couldn’t respond, I needed to relax before I could, her next statement didn’t help.
“I protected my son as any mother would”, this time the whistle did sound, a statement too late sadly.
“The car disagrees and so do I. You killed your son, you murdered him in his sleep then you drove your car into a tree to save yourself the jail time. You could have turned Jorge in but you didn’t” I responded to her, the words barely dragging themselves out of my mouth through gritted teeth.
“Turn him in? You must be joking, he’d get 12 years at best. He’s a 30-year-old man he’d be back on the streets in his early 40s, plenty of time to get back to his sick work...plenty of time to abuse my beautiful boy” she responded, the words she spoke had such conviction, she truly believed she was right no matter what me, the car or anyone else said.
“So you murdered your son to protect him from abuse? That makes no sense” I replied my foot pressing down on the gas pedal at full force.
“I saved him,” she replied instantaneously before the car let out another loud whistle.
“I wouldn’t expect you or this piece of junk to understand that”
That was the last we spoke before reaching the gates of the Great Divide, I tipped my hat to Reginald the Gatekeeper and he lifted the barrier to let me through. We drove towards the fork in the road, two large stone doors blocking both paths, the doors had large runic patterns chiselled into them, they both looped and swirled around the stone faces, one pattern gold the other onyx. The door flung open on the car and Melina stepped out, we did not exchange goodbyes. As she walked to the doors the golden runes lit up and the door slowly opened, a warm beam of orange light beamed out from the road and she stepped into it, the door flung shut and her fate was sealed.
She was sent to Damnation.
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The rest of my day was mostly uneventful, many old people going up or down, mostly down. I did have one interesting passenger named Laney Richards, she had caused her brother to fall from a tree at a young age confining him to a wheelchair for life, she had also gotten involved in the wrong crowd as a teenager and done some pretty minor shit like vandalism and breaking and entering. She bawled her eyes out when we arrived at the doors fully sure her fate was Damnation, them tears stopped unnaturally fast once I took a detour left through the Mariana Forest and out the other side to the tram to Nocturland, a type of purgatory where people can work to gain entry to Paradise. She had made some mistakes but she had mostly learned from them and her brother’s accident was exactly that, an accident. I’m not a betting man but I would be positive she would end up in Paradise sooner rather than later.
After a hard day's work, I drove to a McDonald’s to pick up a quick bite to eat and then drove to The Depot so I could clock in my points for the day and update my table standing, I also needed to pick up my paycheck. Once everything was sorted I threw my bag into my locker and grabbed my hat I had left there yesterday, I went to head back out to the car and finish for the day, however, the manager of The Depot, Mr.Anyew stopped me on the way out.
“Freddie, just the man I was looking for. We got another lost soul that needs transporting and I know you were complaining about missing out on some points the past while so I thought I’d give it to you especially since it’s on your way...of course, I can just give it to Grigor he’s in the rec room at the moment.”
Mentioning Grigor was a low blow, we were both at the top of the rankings and Mr.Anyew knew I wouldn’t say no if Grigor was the second option.
“Nah, it’s okay I can do it boss” I responded before putting my hat on and turning to leave. “Great, I just sent the details to your vehicle, enjoy!” I heard the large Eygptian bellow towards me as I walked out the front door.
I got to my car and checked the iPad for the details, only a location and a cause of death was given, this was pretty uncommon but it had happened a few times before, sometimes details got lost in the mix but thankfully you only needed a location, so I set off towards the pickup point to collect Mr Died From Gunshot Wounds.
The best thing about working for Styx was also the worst, you really never know who you might have to pick up on any given day, they could be interesting or horrible. They could truly be anyone, it is a real double-edged sword and when I arrived at the pickup point I was cut by the sword.
“Vince?”
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OBLIGATORY FILLER MATERIAL – BAR FIGHT? NOT WITH DOC BIONICFINGERS! Part two.

Continuing…
“You asshole”, Roy muttered into his beer.
I was having a large time. Es was right. This is just what the Doctor’s wife ordered.
I was now trying to explain to Zac American Football.
“So, let me get this straight. These huge cousins of yours, kitted out in all that heavy protective gear, basically smash into one another, up one side of the field and down the other. They can run, throw the ball, and jump on each other.” He observes.
“That’s the gist of it.“ I reply.
“Sounds like Rugby with more padding. Must be a bunch of pansies; don’t want to get hurt.” Zac laughingly laughs.
I chuckle. I guess after my cricket fiasco, I deserved that.
The drunk Kiwi, now 3.5 sheets to the wind wanders by, hears the tag-end of the conversation again and says:
“Yeah. Fucking American pussies. Stupid game. Not a one would last a second against the All Blacks. All Americans are pussies. ”
I turned slowly, looked at this weaving retard, and said:
“You should feel honored. I’ve never done this for another person. Yet.”
I slowly turn and extend my kevlar-coated middle finger right in front of his face. You could almost hear the micro-stepper motors whine.
“Oh, yeah?” He counters, “Well. Fuck you.”
“Eloquent little miscreant”, I mention to Roy and Zac.
Then he makes a slight misstep.
He reaches out and grabs my left hand.
I swear. It wasn’t intentional, but his grasping of my hand triggered my reflexes. That is amped and amplified by this fine Japanese technology.
My hand opened near-instantly, caught his, and flexed back down.
Hard.
There were a couple of audible cracks.
They weren’t from me.
The hammered Kiwi went down on his knees in an instant. Evidently he was feeling some pain.
“Sorry mate; but you shouldn’t have done that. Automatic reflexes. I’m still getting used to the power curve.” I said.
“ARRGH!” he wailed, “Let me go, you motherfucker!”
Suddenly, a dark shadow arrives. Sandeep enters and looks over the situation.
He sees Zac behind the bar, who gives him the high sign.
“Doctor Rock? This bag of shit giving you a hard time?” Sandeep asks me.
“Well, he was being the most antisocial of creatures, Sandeep”, I calmly replied.
Sandeep grabs the Kiwi by the scruff of the neck and rear belt. He then picks him up like a scrap of dogshit-smeared day-old newspaper as I let go of his slightly mushed hand.
Sandeep carries the Kiwi, physically, to and out of the front door.
Zac smiles at me and says:
“If that’s not worth another round, I don’t know what is!”
Even Roy tried just a little of the vodka. He had to as the bottle was almost empty.
He groaned audibly as Zac returned with a fresh one.
Roy wandered over to an unoccupied booth. He sat down, leaned his head back and started snoring loudly.
A buxom waitress, but not the one from earlier, came over and began to complain.
“How am I supposed to make any tips with this birk snoring away like this?” she haughtily asked.
Zac and I look around the bar. It’s nearly deserted.
I ask her to step over to the bar. I explain that Roy is with me and he’s just a bit tired from driving all day in the hot Dubai sun.
Then, I hand her a random assortment of notes from off the bar.
She accepts them and her demeanor swings 1800.
“Is there a problem?” I ask.
“Oh, no. No sir. He can sleep there all night for all I care.” She smiles.
The other buxom waits-person from before sees the transaction, and emits an audible “Harrumph!” She throws down her towel and makes it rapidly for the kitchen door.
“Hmm”, I say, “What’s eating her?”
Zac just smiles and doesn’t even bother to ask if he should pour us another.
Zac, Sandeep, and I were going through the bar’s taped collection of sporting events, trying vainly to find something we could all agree upon.
It seems that time, as it’s wont, had passed and the bar was closed.
At least, to other patrons. As long as I was happy buying everyone rounds, Zac and Sandeep had nowhere else to be.
We stumbled across some sport fishing show from years and years ago. We all decided that yes, we all liked fishing, and this would serve a fine counterpart to our MST3K-like riffing of the show.
We had a fine time. Zac, Sandeep, and I swapping fishing lies and Roy snoring away like a buzz-saw over in the booth.
But, as the sun crept through the windows, I decided it was time for me to vamoose. I settled up my bar tab with Zac, leaving both him and Sandeep a couple of cigars and healthy tips.
Sandeep rouses Roy and after a bit of cajoling, Roy joins me at the bar.
“Looks like you’ve got a driver for the next two weeks”, Roy sorrowfully laments.
“Nahh…I was just funnin’ ya’.” I said.
“No. A bet’s a bet. I lost. You are something else. What? I don’t know, but I do know you’ve won this bet.” He admits.
“I just hate to lose”, I smiled back.
Roy looks at me a bit unsteadily. He has severe booth hair.
“Roy”, I say, “You look like what we in the business call a ‘Go Devil”. It starts out spiffy but comes out looking like hell. You need coffee. In fact, so do I. Go throw some cold water in your face and I’ll ask Zac to set us up.” I offered.
I didn’t need to tell Roy twice. He toddles off to the euphemism, and I ask Roy for two black coffees.
Roy returns and sips at the hot beverage. He stops short and asks:
“There no booze in here, is there? I can smell booze.” He notes.
“It’s a bar, Roy”, Zac laughs.
“Yeah, Roy”, I reply, “Only booze fumes are from my coffee.”
“Over the evening, I told Zac how to prepare a Greenland Coffee. One with whiskey, Kahlua and Grand Marnier; hold the schlag.”
“You are drinking one now?” Roy asks, incredulous, “After all that last night?”
“After all what?” I reply, “Yep. Best eye-opener in the world.”
“You’re fucking inhuman,” Roy says, deep into his mug of Joe.
“Never claimed I was anything but.”, I smiled and waved my cybernetic fingers in his direction.
“What did I do to deserve this?”, Roy muttered.
Well, we finally, around 0600 depart the Quantum Sports Bar.
I was a bit peckish as the pub grub available was just a bit too amuse-bouche cutesy for me. I want Luigi’s gut bomb pizza; with extra cheese, Italian sausage, and anchovies.
Alas, none were to be found in Dubai at this hour.
Roy deposits me back at the hotel and I pay him his due, with a smart tip. He makes certain I have his business card and that if I ever need a Dubli driver, to call him first.
Up in the room, Es is sawing lumber. I decide not to wake her and grab a quick drink or five out of the mini-bar. I run a luxuriantly foamy hot tub in which I can relax my cares away once I disconnect my digits and set them in the charger.
Esme and I were later at lunch after I tubbed for a while then decided to grab a few hours’ sleep.
Es was up and puttering around the room when the doorbell rang.
I went to grab something other than sleeping clothes as Es answered the door.
“Rock! It’s for you” Esme called.
“Probably the fuzz. The Kiwi narked on us and now I’m in Dutch.” I thought.
It wasn’t. It was a local Emirati, one Mr. Abdul Jabbaar el-Abdalla, from the Ministry of Culture and Knowledge Development.
“Yes?”, I said to the dishdasha-clad individual at the door.
“You are Dr. Rocknocker, late of the Sultanate?” he asks.
“Yes,” I replied. I’m not letting anything on past name, rank, and serial number until I get the lowdown on this character.
“Ah. Wonderful”, he smiles back, “Might we have a chat?”
“Regarding?” I ask warily.
“The upcoming Late Summer or Early Fall Dubai Shopping Festival.” he smiles like a cheetah back at me.
“Weird”, was the only thing I could think.
“Most certainly. Won’t you come in?” I ask.
“Thank you”, he says and sweeps into the hotel room.
We take seats near my work desk. I introduce Esme as my wife and they exchange pleasantries.
“Could I get you something? Coffee? Tea?” Esme enquires.
“I could go for a cold one, dear,” I say. Arab or not, this little piece of Dubai real estate is dogma-free.
Mr. Abdul surprises me and asks for a cold beer as well.
“I may look Emirati, but I’m really, by family, Omani.” He smiles broadly and goldly.
“Well”, I reply, “That explains it. Yes, dear. A couple of Balticas, please.” I say. “Care for a light or dark beer, Mr. Abdalla?”
“Oh, light please.” He remarks.
“A number 3 and one 9, please,” I say to Esme.
Over his light and my very dark Russian beer, he lays out the program.
“Yes, at the conclusion of the festival, we want to mark the passing of the occasion after the virus pandemic with a special finale.” He noted.
“Such as? And why me?” I ask.
He smiles and actually chuckles a bit.
“We plan on Tchaikovsky’s 1828 Overture as a finale.” He lights up.
“OK. A good piece of solid show music”, I reply, “And this applies to me how?”
“Well, you obviously know of the score”, he says, “And we want to set a record with our rendition of a finale.”
“Really?” I ask, “Let me guess, you asked around and the pyro crowd gave you my name?”
“Precisely.” he laughs. “Every time. We tracked you down from flight records. Imagine our astonishment to find you right here in town. “
“Yep. Yippee. So, if the normal pyrotechnicians can’t supply what you want and you come to me, you must want some really big booms.” I note.
“Exactly. Such a quick study, Doctor”, he notes.
“How big?” I ask and have a swig of beer.
“Record-setting”, he replies.
“OK. What are the previous world’s record for such an endeavor?” I ask.
“The performance by the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force Eastern Army Band, 1st Band, and 1st Artillery Unit in 2010 used M101 105mm howitzers. The final part of the performance of Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture in London 2012 was with live gunfire of HMS Belfast. The Boston Pops in 2015 used a record of 1.5 tons of fireworks. We want to surpass that.” he replied.
“OK. Now I’ve got a basis for comparison. Leave me to it. We’re not leaving any time soon, it appears. Let me cogitate the matter for a while and I’ll get back to you with a plan and procedure. OK? What’s the budget?” I ask.
“Unlimited. But within reason”, he chuckles. “Use your best judgment.”
“I can do that.” I reply, “I’m sort of bored right now so I’ll get right after its wild ass.”
A bit taken aback, he continues:
“Fine. Fine. Most agreeable. As is this beer. Thank you. My card, Doctor. Please call when you have a plan.” he states, rises, shakes my hand, says goodbye to Esme without shaking her hand, and departs.
“You heard?” I asked Es.
“Oh, yes. Damn. Talk about giving Dracula the key to the blood bank.” She smiles.
“Gonna need your help on this one”, I say.
“Oh, yes, oh deaf one. Call me when you need me.” she smiles.
“I always need you”, I reply very truthfully.
After a bit of research, we find that Tchaikovsky’s 1828 overture finale consists of 12 cannon fires. 1-11 are pretty much the same, but #12, El Ultimo, it is the loudest and most sustained.
“We’re setting records,” I say to Esme, “This will not do…”
Two days later, I have a plan and procedure. I call one Mr. Abdul Jabbaar el-Abdalla, from the Ministry of Culture and Knowledge Development for a second visit.
“Good day, Mr. Abdulla. I trust you’re well amid all this craziness?” I ask.
“Oh, yes. Thank you. You and yours as well?” he asks tangentially.
“We have fully functioning immune systems”, I reply, “We’re good.”
“Excellent! Shall we see what you’ve worked up?” he asks, anxiously.
“Absolutely. But first, a libation?” I ask.
“I wouldn’t say no if it were wet and cold.” He smiles.
Esme returns with our beers and I pull out the pages of procedure and the list of materials with projected costs for Mr. Minister of the Culture and Know-how.
He looks at it and emits a low whistle.
“Well, Doctor, one cannot say you don’t do your homework.” He smiles in appreciation.
“I always try to be succinct, sufficient, and satisfactory. Plus, I always add an additional 25% contingency.” I reply.
“Can you walk me through this?” he asks.
“Most assuredly”, I remark. And I do.
“Based on results from a nine element vertical line array (VLA) with hydrophones spaced 0.7 m apart and an autonomous recording system recording on a multi-channel coherent data acquisition system (Astro-Med, Inc.) for which each channel was recorded at 62,500 samples per second; the initial shock wave can be approximated as decaying exponential with a decay constant h given by Chapman as Ø = 8:12 x 10–5 W13 (W1/3)0:14.
Remembering that attributes of a sound at a particular point are usually obtained by measuring pressure changes as sound waves pass; this Δ detonation pressure equivalent for 1 kilo of C-4, which is composed of 91% RDX ("Research Department Explosive", an explosive nitroamine), bound by a mixture of 5.3% dioctyl sebacate (DOS) or dioctyl adipate (DOA) as the plasticizer (to increase the plasticity of the explosive), thickened with 2.1% polyisobutylene (PIB, a synthetic rubber) as the binder, with a density of 1.58 grams per cubic centimeter, and an explosive velocity of 8,092 m/s (26,550 ft/s) is 257 kilobars.
This is the equivalent of ‘noise dosemeters’, record the Pa2·h (pascal-squared hour) decibel level of an instantaneous 140.”
“Um, yes Doctor. “ Mr. Abdalla says, “A little less theory, and a bit more practical if you please.”
“Oh, yes, certainly”, I say, and proceed right along, “Using the equation ‘Distance = 215(NEQ)1/3, and since 140 decibels is considered as a "safety cutoff" for exposure to impulsive noises without using hearing protection, as per a festival; it’s not a question of how loud do you want the bang, just how far will you have to keep people away to ensure their safety.”
“How is that?” he asks.
“Well, with 10 kilos, you need to be back 463.20m to be safe. 100 kilos? 997.94m or near as hell one kilometer. 1,000 kilos? Just over two kilometers or 2150.00m to be precise. Just for laughs, 10,000 kilos? Nearer to five kilometers, or 4632.03m.”
“I see”, he says and rubs his neatly trimmed beard.
“So, I propose building or acquiring three sea-going barges, 75m x 15 meters, and have them anchored offshore from a kilometer to two distant. That’s easily done as the water here off Dubai is quite shallow.”
“Continue, please.” He says.
“There are 12 cannon shots in the 1812 Overture finale. An initial set of three, a set of four, another set of 4, and the grand finale. I suggest that you build 12 flat-topped wooden platforms where the height of the platform relates directly to the C-4 charge size. If the charge is 100 kilos, then a minimum of 6 meters in height; scaled proportionally. The flat top of wood eliminates missiles if the platform disintegrates, as the blast energy will radiate outward hemispherically and basically just scorch the hell out of the wood platform.”
“Understood. Please continue.”, he asks.
“OK. This way you can scale up the charge, move back the barge, and build your towers just so large.”
He snickers at that and asks me to carry on.
“I suggest three initial charges of 100 kilos. Then four of 250 kilos. Then four more of 500 kilos. For the Grand Finale, I suggest 1,500 to 2,000 kilos. Do that, and the record will be assured.”
“Excellent!” he exclaims, “Anything else?”
“Oh, yes”, I smile, “C-4 is pliable and easily molded. I suggest you form the charges with a flat base, but into an auricular shape. That is, chop off your ear and set it on the table. Mold the C-4 in that approximate shape, aiming the low-side toward the audience. That will maximize the volume, but dissipate the shock wave the fastest.”
“Outstanding!” he clasps his hands.
“But, wait. There’s more!” I say, “The flash from C-4 isn’t that especially bright. You want sight as well as sound. So, mix 15-25% Tannerite, a binary explosive, with the C-4. Also, you can place potassium nitrate/magnesium or potassium nitrate, aluminum, and sulfur flash powder packets into the cavity of the auricular shape. The pyrotechnicians handling the show can rig this no problem. You can mold the C-4 and Tannerite up to 3 days in advance if you cover it with biophane, a breathable bioplastic, and keep them cool and in the dark.”
“Oh, this is wonderful, Doctor. But you’ll not be here?” he asks.
“No, I’m afraid not.” I reply, “Once the quarantine is lifted, my dear wife and I are gone to the Sultanate. We’re packing as quickly as we can and headed back to the states. I need to get to university where I’m pursuing my DSc degree. We also want to get out of the Middle East. 22 years is quite enough, thank you. Of course, no offense intended. We just want to get home to family.”
“I see. That I can understand.” He notes, “Thank you for your time and design. I do appreciate the list of materials, that will make things most convenient. How much do we owe you and the Mrs. for your time and efforts, Doctor?”
“Mr. Minister, nothing”, I say. “We’re stuck here and just working on the preliminaries for my dissertation. It was a welcome respite from Helium exploration and Rb/Os ages of Neoproterozoic biomarkers. Consider it the Rocknocker family gift to the cause.”
“My, my Doctor and Mrs.”, the Minister of the Small and the Silly remarks, “That’s very generous of you. Your names will be mentioned prominently in the proceedings of benefactors to the festival.”
“Mr. Minister”, I said, “We’d rather you didn’t. We neither desire nor require the notoriety, and in this case, we would rather just remain safely anonymous.”
“If that is your wish, then your requests will be respected.” The Minister says as he rises to leave. “How much longer will you be staying with us?”
“Ask your brethren to the south. It’s all up to them” I wearily replied.
“I’ll see what I can do. Once again. Doctor? Mrs. Thank you. Thank you so very much. Good day.” He shakes my hand, ignores Es’ and takes his leave.
“Well,” I relate to my beloved, “That was fun. I’m going swimming. Can you charge up my fingers for me, dear?”
She smiles and says of course. Besides, it’s siesta time for her. I want to get out to the pool before it’s the Skin Bubbling Hour.
A day passes. We’re still bored and waiting for liberation.
The next morning, the doorbell rings.
I’m working on the New York Times crossword and another Greenland Coffee.
“Bloody hell.”, I remark, looking at my watch. “It’s Oh-Dark 30 early. Now, what the fuck?”
After closing my robe, I open the door. I don’t trust those little fisheye peepholes since I saw Hard Target and Leon the Professional. I’d rather see it coming.
“Yeah?” I say to the huge bush of fresh-cut flowers.
“You’re Dr. Rocknocker and Mrs?” a voice asks.
“Yes to the first and no to the second. But she’s here.” I say warily to the talking greenery.
“Gift for you from the Ministry of Culture and Knowledge Development. Sign here please”, the foliage requests.
I grab the clipboard and scribble something similar to what passes for my signature.
I hand the clipboard back to the mound of sentient vegetation whereupon it asks where I would like it to be set in the suite.
“Anywhere you can find that’s there’s room,” I reply.
Holy shit, it’s not a floral arrangement, it’s a floral shop.
He sets it in the middle of the dining room table. The damn thing extends from one side, parallel to its longest dimension, to the other. The damn thing must weigh in at 50 kilos. Or more.
“Wait here, please”, the now visible delivery person asks.
“Like I’m going somewhere?” I mused.
He returns with three huge boxes of custom, hand-dipped chocolates. Somehow, he finds room for these on the table as well.
I tip him 25 dirhams and he says “Thanks” and bids a hasty departure.
Es hears all the hubbub and wanders down from the bedroom.
“What the hell was all that …What the hell is this?” she asks.
“Let me look at the note,” I say, find it and rip it open.
“A small gesture of our everlasting thanks. Signed, Minister Abdul Jabbaar el-Abdalla, and all of us at the Ministry of Culture and Knowledge Development.”
“Well, so much for that diet we discussed.” I snickered to Esme as I opened the first box and saw the easily 20 to 25 rows of lovely looking hand-dipped dark chocolates.
“I do so wish I liked chocolate.” I mused aloud.
Esme adores chocolate.
The doorbell rings again. Es hustles upstairs in her nightgown, and I wander over and answer the door.
“What?”
“Dr. Rocknocker?” this new delivery guy asks.
“Yes?”
“Sign here.” He says.
I do. He takes and hands me a yellow flimsy from the triplicate delivery order. He turns and begins to walk down the hall.
“Hey, Chuckles. What did I just sign for?” I ask.
“Look down”, he says over his shoulder, never breaking stride.
“Oh”, I said.
Hey, it’s early. Leave me alone.
There’s a suspicious-looking parcel, approximately 12-7/8” x 9-11/16” x 12-1/2” and weighing in at around 34 pounds or so.
I drag it in and find space for it in the kitchen.
Look. There’s a card. Addressed to me.
I open it.
“Doctor. Best regards and wishes. Abdul Jabbaar el-Abdalla.”
Nice.
I open the case to find a dozen bottle sampler of Chopin Vodka. Four wheat, four rye, and four potato vodka.
Es wanders back down and is almost consumed by the overwhelming pong of the tropical flower shrubbery that has taken up residence in our dining room.
“OK. You can have a few chocolates. As long as I can have some of my present.” I say.
“Deal” Es replies."Gimmee."
Remind me to say something nice about Dubai sometime in the future. But only once; let’s not get carried away.
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JoJo's Bizarre Adventure OC Tournament #5: Round 1 Match 20: Casey Williams and Manta Malaise?

The results are in for Match 18.
The game was lasting quite a long time, with Red Carpet Renaissance’s more aggressive playstyle hardly giving the room to breathe to the carefully-crafted tactics of the Sharp Lookers, but those very same plans at once keeping them from finding themselves getting clicked.
Violet Lange was watching, still, invested in how the hell this could keep on going, what might finally turn the tides, only for her cell phone to vibrate, a text message appearing on it from a contact registered under: “C. Williams”
waiting at docks
we still on?
“Oh, shit, what time is it?” Violet glanced upwards slightly, and cursed again as she realized what hour and minute read. “Yeah, I gotta go. Uh…” She waved at the ongoing game. “See ya ‘round, guys, you’ve been totally great!”
Nobody noticed her walk away.
Nobody wins! For an equal score of 66, everyone’s time was wasted!
Category Winner Point Totals Comments
Popularity Sharp Lookers 19-10 Things seemed even for most of the voting period, with many of the votes being split, but late into it, a modest number of Sharp Lookers votes translated into a massive lead. For the first time, this resulted in votes splitting perfectly by .5s when the division was done, and since it would mean taking a point away from one side to give it to the other, that thirtieth pop point simply vanishes into the aether…
Quality Red Carpet Renaissance 20-22 Reasoning
JoJolity Red Carpet Renaissance 17-24 Reasoning
Conduct TEAM 10-10
Half an hour later…
“Uh… Kisa?” Masa asked, earning his partner’s attention. “You know how I said I’d watch the girl to make sure she didn’t pull somethin’ weird?”
“Hm?” Kitose Saiko turned to face his friend, and noticed the lack of anybody he was standing beside. “Oh my god. How… How, Masa?”
“I dunno!” He answered, sounding similarly bewildered, waving his hands as Kisa, in his frustration, lit up the entire remaining pack of his cigarettes and took a drag from each of them at once. “She just sorta… Was gone when I stopped paying attention.”
“The woman is… Gone.” Dimitri was incredulous as well. “And there goes our hints on this Black Angel! The library is surely closed by now, so we’ve wasted a day and this town knows we’re looking.”
pranked again… violet lange, u r officially… epic
As Nebula’s synthetic voice remarked that and moved to silence, Ace couldn’t help but laugh. “Vitus is gonna be pissed too, that we were dragged off to play some game instead of tailing Peres… Haahhh, man, what were we thinking? This was her job, I bet. She just needed to waste our time awhile, get us heated and fighting each other, throwing piss around and playing dirty… Gave us the slip soon as our attentions were off her. Well played, I must admit… Well played…”
“Distracting us from the Black Angel…” Dimitri stroked his chin. “And also from Peres? But I remember Laverne saying the Black Angel vigilante was banned from the Devil Blue, the hotel she works at. What could the common thread between them be..?”
“Well, I’m annoyed too… Don’t just bail on an agreement you make…” Masa answered, before adding with a slight smile. “But hey, in some good news…” He held up a gift card, waving it between his fingers. “She left the CaraMel’s gift card, 200 USD just like she said, and that place? Not just to die for, from when Ray came back with stuff from there the other day, but I hear the ‘goss’ is ‘hot’ there too, as she said in that super-exaggerated little Valley Girl voice. What say I claim this card and treat you all? Call it a, uh… Ceasefire, for now.”
gonna be annoyed if its stale by the time i can actually eat it
but ok sounds good
The game of assassin was fruitless, but the fruits of an assassination are still born, and two pairs of Stand Users fight to protect their local leaders from them. There’s still about a day to vote in that when this goes up.
Scenario:
South Aurelio - East of the Wormwood
“I am so sorry, I just lost track of time… I got these four roped into this big assassin game, and I didn’t wanna bail, but…”
Not long after Violet Lange officiated that little college game and the evening began to roll in that, again she found a Stand User’s company. Casey Williams, MFA member, sat in the passenger seat of a vibrant purple convertible, occasionally staring either at passing suburban scenery in the transition between the college town and suburban hellscape, or the way her companion’s lavender scarf billowed in the wind.
“Look, I get it, I get it, shit happens, especially ‘round Midnight Sun. You don’t need to explain.” After a few moments of silence, tapping her hands against the outer door of the car as her arm hung over the window, Casey spoke up. “I, uh… Didn’t expect you to call me, but Kirk vouched for you. Why me, for… Whatever this is?”
Violet had, that morning, asked Casey to aid her in an investigation after she finished up with some shit she had to do on campus, and still now, had said very little about what was going on sans its importance. “I trust you… For the same reason I took over the bifrost server, and the same reason I revealed myself to your team. André had faith in you all to do what was best, and, well, I have no idea what to do but follow his lead and use what power I have to do it. As for you in particular… I want to work with somebody my age, basically. No more than that.”
“If you trust me so much,” Casey said, looking to the river to her left as the pair drove along a road opposite it, admiring how the setting sun reflected upon its rippling waves, “why haven’t you told me what we’re doing, then? You sounded like it was important, so I agreed to hear you out, but you’ve still been cagey.”
“I wanted it to be in person, while we were speeding along,” Violet explained, looking out upon the road still, briefly glancing off in the distance and seeing a manor across the water, braking for a moment and pointing towards it. “See that house by the riverbank there?”
She handed Casey a pair of binoculars, and the latter surmised, “looks like a dump.”
“From the outside, and nobody has owned it for thirty years, yet…” She paused, as if she was about to say a name and reconsidered. “My contact - a high-schooler who comes and goes late at night, you wouldn’t know them, and I’m purposefully leaving them out of this, but I can vouch for their reliability - says that sometimes, late at night, delivery trucks bring perfectly good furniture to the bridge just North of here, and by morning, they seem to have just disappeared into the ground. I dunno if you pay attention to the news, but there’s a ‘Serial Killer’ who operates in this town, and besides that… Sixteen people who disappeared in this area are still missing, and haven’t had their bodies identified. The more research I’ve done lately, I’m completely certain of it. That ‘abandoned residence’ must be the ‘lair’ of this killer! It’s certainly big enough to hold that many people and then some… So I plan to break in.”
“Serial killer..?” Casey’s head tilted slightly, then, suddenly, the words hit her as Violet resumed her drive. “Wait, what? So even if you’re right, you’re just gonna bust down this guy’s door without knowing what he’s capable of? Why this? Why you, and so covert?”
“Because I’ve spent my life sneaking and slipping by to survive, clinging to stronger people. Because I used to roll with the kind of scum who would use Stands to do whatever the hell they wanted like we were better than everyone else. Because the last time I tried to get someone to take care of this killer, all she did was kill an innocent man in front of me! I’m tired of just being an ‘extra,’ moving pieces around and waiting in place, Casey. I’ve said that I just want to survive, but a friend of mine, every day, fights tooth and nail to make this place better. I’m going to be an adult and try, goddammit, and if you don’t want to do the same, I can just drop you off, and-”
“Whoa, whoa, whoa,” Casey continued, raising her hand up, and then offering Violet a confident little smile. “When did I say I was going to refuse? Hell, lives are on the line, pedal to the metal! I hear this town has like two cops, and I sure don’t see either of them around!”
“That’s what I like to hear…” Violet’s own lips curled upwards slightly, and she stepped on the gas. “We’re gonna totally tear shit up today.”
They drove along the bridge in silence from there, Casey contemplating things as they sped along, occasionally stealing glances towards the house just what was now South of them. Not long after, though, she began to grow uncomfortable, pulling her shirt’s collar over her nose. “Eugh… What’s that smell now? We pass a dead skunk or something?”
“That’s… I know this smell. That isn’t a skunk.” Violet gave a glance to her rear-view mirror, and her face stiffened. “Casey… Get out of the car, now! Ditch it!”
“What? What is-” Casey stammered, surprised and trying to hurriedly work her seatbelt off as Violet began to jerk the vehicle around, as if intended on steering the thing straight into the river. As she did so, she glanced behind her, and though the rising shape of a figure on the back of the car was hard to make out in the twilit evening, there was certainly a massive, and vaguely humanoid, and there were eyes on her.
There were so many eyes.
Slightly down the Wormwood River…
Ah, the Wormwood River. This massive landmark is a symbol of Los Fortuna in many ways. It came to exist during the city’s foundational years, it runs from the Northernmost mountains into the city itself, and quite symbolically, it splits the affluent Eastern portions of the city, highly regarded centers of culture and quality of life, with the Western, the environmentally unclean, the poorer, the portions of the city in which the greatest safety and stability comes from being within the care of a territorial gang which has earned the ire of countless other districts.
This divide was sharp and clear in the way it split the affluently beloved outer suburbs of the Woods of Aurelio, whose schools, fine homes, esteemed country club, golf course, town hall, and most of the town’s voting centers all sat in the East.
Manta Malaise thought this symbol of all which they sought to destroy a poetic place to take their pollution this evening.
“This Metropolis which is so very very burdensome to me, and this humble hamlet so tantalizingly close to it nearby,” they began aloud, just in the off chance somebody was around to hear it (and if not, rehearsal was always useful), while the diesel-burning gas-guzzling pickup truck they purchased on the resort’s tab began dumping a container’s worth of sand and grit, “I have heard it said that this location in which we are entrapped it on the decline… Yet nay, I say. At least, nary the full picture… This place is but a microcosm of all that surrounds it, a more blatant case of all that is true elsewhere, as well… A fine example for the world, it will make.”
As they spoke, a ripped-away purple car door floated by on the river, distracting them from speaking about how, if they repeat this process for a few weeks (maybe buy a new car every time), they would be able to kill the fish eggs and microorganisms that make up the key bottom of the river life’s food chain, eventually add nitrogen to the mix to toxically increase ugly and deadly algal growth, and aloud, they spoke “curious… That is a recognizable door of a quality automobile… To whom might it belong? Ah, no matter!”
Seconds later, a bloodied figure with several open wounds along its back burst from the water, clinging to dear life to the floating door and beginning to kick in Manta’s direction with surprising strength. He seemed to have tall blond hair, green pants, and a sleeveless shirt, though those all were obviously soaked and stained both with water and blood. As he reached the shore nearby them, within the range of ‘Morgana Courts Danger’, he gasped and turned onto his wounded back.
The young man who floated towards Manta Malaise said nothing, and did not even seem to notice the effects of their proximity as they approached and turned him around to get a look at the other side of the sleeveless shirt-clad figure. The life was fading from the blond man’s eyes, and his lips trembled, a faint grin on them. He did not say a word, but as Manta looked down, they realized that the phrase on the outfit he wore said more about his final feelings, the state of his body, than his voice ever could.
Ouch!
“What… What on this fetid dying earth is going on here?” They weren’t concerned, per se, but curious about the sudden arrival of this man.
He continued not speaking, bringing a trembling hand up and away, pointing softly with a single finger Southwards, slightly - towards a shabby-looking abode.
“Do you… Mean to send me there?”
His strong lips curled into a serene smile, his hand dropped, and his eyes closed.
“Nghh… I had not the time to have his final sounds heard in life a rejection of this quest, perished for naught…” Manta remarked aloud, gritting their teeth. “As if I would simply traipse towards what is not my business… Though, how did he get here through the water? He seemed to appear so suddenly…”
They looked towards their truck. The motor was still running, but it had emptied its load fine. “I am curious,” they remarked, and so, after cranking the heat and AC of the vehicle as high as it could go, they abandoned it, diving into the water to see where this dead lad may have come from.
???
Casey awoke to that same odor again, but less severely so, in an uncomfortable, unsheeted mattress in what appeared to be a bunk room of sorts. As she rose, she had to avoid scraping her arm on a rusty spring, rubbing her eyes all the while.
“Nngh, what’s..?” She looked around, and after glancing past her a few times, saw Violet laying in a similar situation, a bizarre metal collar around her neck poking out behind the scarf, but otherwise looking unharmed. “Violet..! Wake up, Violet!”
“Nnghh… What’s..?” She sat up, feeling around for her beret and putting it on, glancing at Casey. “You’ve got a weird collar on you, Casey…” She felt at her own neck, then. “Oh.”
“Look out for those things,” a casual-sounding, low voice uttered, earning the attention of the pair; a woman with dark, wavy hair and a velvet dress was filing her nails on one of the springs. Nearby her sat a cone-haired, dirty-blond high schooler, built like a football player and a varsity away from dressing like it. “When ‘that person’ brings in a ‘Stand User,’ they get a collar like that… Likes to make up little game rules, and if they break ‘em or leave, uh…” She jerked her thumb towards a far-off wall of the room filled with a few dozen bunks, in which a bloody, smoky outline shaped like a person outstretched was dried against the wall. “Poor bastard didn’t listen because the floor wasn’t literally lava… Hey, don’t jump now, yeah? That’s not the game being played right now.”
“Palmer, you’re scaring the hell out of them, and that really isn’t useful right now… We’re going to get out soon, I’m sure of it,” another young woman’s voice called out, and as the voice seemed familiar, the face confirmed it. Though her long neat hair was short in an uneven cut, the blue blazer’s sleeves were destroyed, and the bowtie was loose, it was absolutely TV personality Jillian Heart.
“Jill..?” Violet asked, tone lightening up immensely.
She took a moment to process that, but then nodded. “Hey, Lange. You and Reed doing alright? And, uh, this a friend of yours?”
“Yeah, hi,” Casey answered, “Casey Williams… College student.”
“She’s cool, yeah,” Violet promised, looking around, “where’s Chad? Not like him to run off…”
“That’s why we’re getting out soon,” Jill answered, happily, “we noticed it when you two were brought in! Broke open this statue in the courtyard and found a waterway that ‘Worm’ - that’s what the killer goes by here - has to have been using to get in and out. They have one of those ‘Stands,’ but we all can see it, so they wear it like a costume and it guards them… But Chad’s the strongest person here, and he’s been our rock through all of this! After Worm left again, he volunteered to go through it and find help, and with him, that means it’s as good as done!”
“I see… So that makes how many people left here, then?” Casey started counting on her fingers.
“Sixteen, minus you two,” Miss Palmer answered, “I’m, uh… Palmer, by the way. Drama teacher at the high school out here. Same story as everyone else here, more or less… Bet the Superintendent’d be happy to hear Elton here and Swift Taylor are still alive, though.”
‘Elton’ said nothing, still, simply sitting there, while Jill took over a bit to talk about the place.
“I think I’m gonna start getting the lay of the land, then…” Casey said, feeling the need to take the initiative. “I’ve still got my Stand with me, thankfully, and if we can’t leave just because help shows up, that means we’re gonna have to fight to get out when this killer shows.”
“Careful,” Jill warned, “there’s traps all over the damn place here… And ‘Worm’ changes them when we’re not looking, just like they change the furniture, or what doors lock how. Makes everyday in this big house hell, and it’s worst of all around the edges. Makes up most of how people die here…”
“I’ll be careful,” Casey said with a nod, stepping out into the halls of the bizarre home.
The underwater corridor Chad had needed to swim through to get out was brutal, and even Manta Malaise had felt tense handling it. Over four meters underwater, less than two meters wide, and the top of the dark, dirty, dank area was lined with rusty nails, blades, and the blood of the man who had attempted it, across a forty-meter stretch of water - slightly shorter than an Olympic swimming pool, but so much more claustrophobic, and with pressure much higher.
They managed it, however, and were they able to speak now, would have commended the amateur cameraman who only swam as a summertime hobby for managing fatally what they were able to get through unscathed carefully. At the end of this gauntlet was a straight shot up, illuminated by moonlight, and so, Manta hurried upwards, taking a breath as they surveyed the area they had come out in.
It was a large fountain on the Eastern end of a long, statue-decorated courtyard full of thorny ground. The crumbled, destroyed remains of such a statue, presumably having once sat atop this passage, was now in pieces, only a pair of outstretched arms on either side of them.
“Look out, you damnable fool! The arms, the arms!!” A theatrical voice called out, and Manta looked its way to see a figure in a top hat, three-piece suit, and black cape with a handlebar moustache and unibrow, and before they could process it, an automated voice emerged from the crumbled head at the fountainside.
Flow 24 Detected
The stone arms seized their neck firmly, and so soon after they had breathed, they could not again. It was no matter for their strong arms to easily smash these damaged ones of stone, however, and soon, they crumbled and descended into the deep. However, Manta felt a new weight around their neck nonetheless; a metal collar.
“So… You are the ‘help’ that damned Kroeger sought? Imposing and impressive-looking for sure, but entrapped like the rest of us now.” The dapper fellow complained.
“Who are you to criticise me, when you yourself are enraptured in this place as well?” Manta asked, spying the man twirling his moustache and moving to do the same with their own facial hairs as if in challenge.
“You dare insult Los Fortuna Parking Lot Magnate Born Bad? I was celebrating turning a GarfieldEATS into one, when I thought I might make my next grand step the transformation of the entire Wormwood River into the world’s largest parking lot as well!” Bad was twirling his moustache hard enough one might have thought it would catch alike. “It would have been a fortune for me, and a record for parking lot-kind!”
“That would destroy the ecosystem of all of Los Fortuna, you know… Ingenious, if more brazen and avant-garde than I might have done,” Manta answered, “tell me now. What have I been caught in?”
Through much villainous posturing, Born Bad explained similar basics of the situation to Manta that Jill had for Casey.
“So my own curiosity has laid me in this ‘Worm’s’ tunnels… Yet, at once, I think it will do to undo this as well. Entrapment here stands in my mission’s way.”
That conversation was cut short by the sound of the Westernmost balcony opening its doors, several meters above them, and a young woman with brown hair, eyes, and skin was looking down at them. She appeared, at once, confused and intimidated by their presence, which was the response Manta generally wanted to evoke.
“Hey, you! Are… Did Chad send you?” Casey asked, clearing her throat. “How is he? Is he alright?”
“If you mean the youth who died luring me here without a word, he is certainly deceased… And has caused for me a definite predicament of a pickle.”
“Wh…” She sounded taken aback. “He’s dead? H-how can you sound so indifferent? That guy risked his life to get help for us, and-”
“And I knew him not, and he got me trapped here. Why should I shed tears for his passing?”
Before this argument could escalate further, a large, pristine-quality monitor which framed the upper Northern wall of the courtyard turned on on its own, and in it, was an image of the entrance foyer of the manor. Slowly, from its floor, that that thing Casey saw before emerged, idly twirling a saber in its hand and lifting it over its head as it leaped several meters into the air.
(Shout-outs to Skelly-tan for this art!)
A voice, both distorted and gargling yet perfectly coherent spoke from its wide maw. “Good evening, everybody, thanks for tuning in! It’s me, you all know me, your hero, the Conqueror Worm! Let’s give it up for our guests tonight… We’ve got a lot going on for our last big ‘game night!’ That’s right, you heard me, last one! Much as doin’ what I have here has been fun, after this, I mean to move onto bigger and better things… But I’ll never forget this place, pinky-promise!”
There was a sort of twisted, uncanny elegance to the way ‘Worm’ paced around, both as if it were limping in agony and gliding effortlessly, the camera focused on it at all times.
“Yep, Aurelio, you heard me right… Conqueror Worm is done bein’ your killer! The lot of you left in here are the end of a generation, and y’all are absolute treats to work with! So, with three Stand Users here, good an’ collared and here to have a time and a half, let’s make this a grand finale for the BOOKS! Stand Users,” it pointed its blade towards a small entranceway behind it, “that door there is locked, but also, in the right circumstance, the one way you’re gettin’ off my property without explodin’ into funny lil’ chunks! See!”
The screen, then, turned into a showing of two maps of the building, with several spaces highlighted. “I just got finished slitherin’ around droppin’ off three ‘chips’ which ya scan against your own specific collars, and then, if you’ve unlocked that mini-foyer behind me, boom! They’re off, and you’re free! I just gotta make sure you die before then, and I can do it with ease! With this body of mine, I can grab anything, put it in there, and pass through any surface I can fit on, see! And to the first person t’get out of it alive? A SPECIAL gift’ll come!”
“Didn’t mention the master key?” Another voice asked.
“Well no I didn’t, but no way they can get that offa-” The camera returned to its view of Worm, though Violet was standing directly behind it, directly waggling a keycard in between her fingers. Not much further back, Jill was covering her mouth with clear amusement. “Wh- Why you!” He swung at her with her blade, and she dodged back, and Worm threw his head back and laughed. “Well, I’ll be… How’d you manage t’pull that off? That’s on MY person, INSIDE here!”
“I started to steal things just for the rush and attention of it when I was seven years old,” Violet said something then, which the audio blurted out and her mouth was off-camera for, but the sound of which shook Worm to his core, his laughing growing slightly incredulous. As she did, she swiped the card over her collar, and it clanked to the ground in pieces. “Yeah, that’s right, I figured out exactly who you are… and now your whole audience knows.”
“I mean sure, think that if y’want!”
“Right… You probably censored it then.” She pouted, then struck a cool and casual pose. “No matter… I’ll just show them your corpse.” A big bushy white hound emerged from Violet’s person, then, ethereal and snarling and beautiful, and she called out, “This is the start of a new me! ‘Forgive and Forget’ is putting you down, Worm!”
As the Stand-dog rushed forward, he chuckled. “Keep runnin’ into white Stand-dogs lately, huh… It’s gonna end for you like it did the last one, too! You shoulda just run!”
F&F leapt into the air, taking aim for the throat underneath Worm’s pungent armor, but he lifted one arm, and as fangs sunk into that, his other swung its blade.
Violet’s face went wide-eyed and pale, and she looked down at herself, clutching her stomach and noticing how red poured out.
“Ooh, did I reach bone there? Tough break…” Worm pulled back the blade, removing it from Forgive and Forget’s midsection as the white dog dropped to the ground before its user, fading away as she fell to her knees. “Aw, y’didn’t realize? This ‘Saber of the Gold Knight’ I perma-borrowed from our local museum ain’t just a conversation-starter… I wouldn’t take it for no good reason at all!”
“Violet..?” Jill asked, stepping back towards another room, too afraid of Worm to rush to her friend’s aid. “What… What even happened? Worm swung at the air, and… And…” Panicking, despite her resolve, Jill ran into the other room, a look of clear terror and guilt on her face.
“…I dunno, blanked out there!” Worm chuckled a bit, shaking off its bitten, uninjured-looking arm and retracting the sword inside its own fetid rolls of rotten off-white flesh. “But whatever happened, that’s ONE down!” He kicked Violet into a corner to the sound of her whimpering and sighed, pacing around a bit as he held up his master keycard and sucked that, too, up in his person. “Won’t cause me much trouble like that, but I know the other two of ya are in my courtyard… Funny startin’ place, since I like to use that place for when a guest wants to just say ‘I give up! End it here!’ Real useful tool for that bit of mercy, y’know? But anyway, the show goes on, and one-on-one is more interesting anyway! First one t’get to the end, I’ll even throw in an EXCLUSIVE interview to make it worth your while! But I’m not gonna keep the viewers at home waitin’ anymore saying more, since this is already goin’ on a little while, and you’re our stars still! So, without further ado…”
“OPEN THE GAME!!! Man is that SATISFYING t’say!”
Location: The estate of the Conqueror Worm, a two-floor building straight out of a Survival Horror. The whole place is hanging with an odd smell, and walls of most of the rooms are dotted with realistic murals of bones and various body parts - given Conqueror Worm’s ability, one must wonder how they were made.
1F MAP, 2F MAP. Due to interests of character limit, the details of each room in the estate can be found here. Most of the rooms are pretty simple, though, so don’t be intimidated by that.
The players are denoted by the circles marked with their character’s initials, with Manta standing in the fountain on the far-East end of the Courtyard of Despair, and Casey standing on the Western second-floor balcony overlooking it. Worm, meanwhile, starts in the first floor’s entrance hall, marked with a question mark. The C marked squares and the M marked squares are the chips that Casey and Manta need respectively, scanning which against their collars will ‘count’ them as read. For what it’s worth, the Violet chips were in the hot tub, freezer, and conservatory, but that is completely irrelevant now.
The circles with numbers in them represent the nonstand-using Survivors present in the area. Exact details on each of them aren’t particularly important, but a list of their names can be found here. The personality blurbs and occupations listed aren’t really relevant for the match’s sake; even the sports stars have been brought to a point where they have the same stats as everyone else.
The X and Y marked rectangles are locked doors and their respective keys are somewhere on the map denoted by the X and Y marked diamonds; these function not unlike car keys; though they can be used to physically lock and unlock the door in person with a turn, it’s much more convenient that one press of the buttons on them can instantly lock and unlock every door on the map marked with the correct letter.
The “F” marked square is the keycard that unlocks the finish line room.
Several of these rooms have traps which Worm knows about, but the players will not be given foreknowledge of all of them. These are already set in stone, however, and it will be up to the attentiveness of the players in following the location descriptions not to fall victim to these; hints are provided, basically, and they’re designed not to be too hard to respond to if you see them coming.
The rooms’ ceilings are generally quite high, three and a half meters above the ground, with about half a meter of space between the ceiling of one and floor above - basically, being a story directly above or below Manta is NOT enough to be within the range of Morgana Courts Danger.
Goal: Casey and Manta, your own survival is priority number one here. Try to get yourself out of this situation alive! In order to do so, you must deactivate your own collar through the insertion of three chips placed around the facility, where labeled on the map. Free yourself and escape alive. That is your priority, and you are under no obligation to help anybody else if you have no desire to. Leaving the map for longer than five seconds without outright moving through the finish space marked on the map will result in the collars detonating, even if all three chips are inserted.
Conqueror Worm, kill Casey and Manta by any means necessary.
A player character will win if their score surpasses that of the Conqueror Worm’s, while receiving less will result in elimination. A tie will be regarded as normal.
This match, thus, has special voting rules. Basically, there are four valid voting options in this: ‘Casey and Manta,’ ‘Manta and Worm,’ ‘Casey and Worm,’ and ‘Conqueror Worm,’ depending on if a voter believes that both players manage to escape, one of them is stopped by the killer, or both of them are.
NPC Information:
‘Conqueror Worm’ Sheet
(Plain Text Version)
Additional Information:
Unless noted otherwise, all doors are wooden.
While there are several unique NPCs throughout the estate, functionally, all of them can generally be expected to act in the same way: they have 222 stats with irrelevant special skills, and generally speaking, do not want to die, and will act in accordance with things they believe to follow that end, though they are not particularly skilled in identifying traps on their own. Manta Malaise frightens them, however, so they may find they require a little more effort to convince people to follow them around than Casey would be able to. Born Bad (“1” on the map), a fellow Dastardly-looking villainous caricature and thus kindred spirit of theirs, is the sole initial exception.
Violet Lange is bleeding and unconscious, and will in no capacity be able to assist, but still alive and should remain so as long as her particular injuries are not aggravated and the game does not take too agonizingly long. The killer has already forgotten about her.
Through review of previous materials, the players do have sufficient information to correctly identify the user of Conqueror Worm, who is, in fact, a character who appeared in the previous Suburb match. They will be allotted one guess, accusation bolded, in the text of the strategy, to name the person. There is no penalty for an incorrect guess, but a correct guess will see ten bonus points awarded; to one side if only they guess it, while both receive five if both do. One hint: they were present at Match 8’s baseball game.
The chips are extremely durable, but if they are rendered inaccessible or removed from the premises, a safety switch will force them to be treated as if they were simply activated and used; Worm isn’t interested in a game where victory or loss is impossible.
The traps themselves will be revealed throughout the first segment of the killer’s strategy, and take up characters in as much, but the existence of these are an indisputable fact which the players must be wise to either avoid or work around.
Though his durability and endurance are exceptional to the point where a fight would be immensely difficult, the killer also possesses a ‘master key’ which, if utilized, can be scanned against the collars to unlock them, unlock the front gate, and unlock any of the electronically-locked doors in the facility.
Team Combatant JoJolity
Masters of Funky Action Casey Williams “No escape, huh? I didn’t want one anyway. That was never part of the plan.” You came here for a reason, even if you’re still trying to define what, exactly, that reason is to you. Whatever you think being a hero might mean in this situation, live up to the standard you define for yourself!
Judecca Highrollers Manta Malaise “The greatest threat to the peace of my heart isn’t Jotaro! It’s him! Josuke Higashikata!” This is an indubitably vexing situation into which you have been brought. While you abscond from this, make certain that you find clever ways to get back at that bastard who has entrapped you here!
???? “Worm” “‘Misconceptions’ are the most terrifying things in the world… And the consequences are even worse if you’re overly confident that your abilities and talents are superior.” You’ve made an absolute deathtrap of your estate here, and it would be a damn shame for any of that to go to waste. The more of your traps successfully go off and seriously hurt someone, the higher your JoJolity rating will go!
Link to the Official Player Spreadsheet
Link to Match Schedule
As always, if you would like to interact with the tournament community and be among the first to get updates for the tournament, please feel free to PM a member of our Judge staff for an invite to our Official Discord Server!
submitted by Dungeon_Dice to StardustCrusaders [link] [comments]

This is all the words u/emoji-fier detects

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submitted by MalOuija to copypasta [link] [comments]

Superbrawl Football Pool - With everything you need for office football pools or large online contests including free basic interface for up to five players or fee-based annual plans for a crowd. Office Football Pool - Fee-based hosting for picks or survivor pools, and fantasy football with toll-free telephone support, FAQ, message boards. Betting on football in anything other than a backstreet, dodgy way or by having a friendly wager with a mate was simply unheard of. On this page we’ll look to tell you about the history of the Football Pools, including how it started in the first place and how it developed over the years. Football Pool Betting: The Sweet Benefits and Bitter Truth. Some people see football betting as a way to get money in order to make ends meet. Others, see football betting as a vice that leads to lose of money and unwanted addiction issues. The debate for and against football pool betting practice in different countries have been on for many Football Squares is one of the most popular Super Bowl party games, and a great way to make your next football party even more enjoyable! It’s also very easy to set up and play. Gather a group of players and ask each person to pay a set amount of money to enter the game. In this case simply start the pool over again next week and add the unclaimed money to the following week’s pool. References. Sports Betting Acumen: Football Office Pools - Free Printable Templates and Instructions ; Tips. If you do not sell all of the squares and there are fewer than four winners, split the prize between the winners. If

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